combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 04 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2006

The Proclamation

    "Why so glum chum? Ain't you glad to be back? ... to be out of there?"

    "Hey ... he's back! Hail our conquering hero!"

    "Hail, hell! Hale and hearty! You bring any beer?"

    "Man, you look good. You feeling fine?"

    "Don't he look good ...."

    "Good? ... shit, if he looked any better I'd marry him!"

    "Don't he look good?"

    "Why you asking me?"

    "Okay, okay ... let's run a re-supply train before somebody steals our stuff. Some beer and such on the sidewalk, so lend a hand."

    "Say, Captain K, this is Bobby. I put him in your bed when his daughter threw him out on the street ... he was in that gravel parking lot next to the airfield."

    "What you doing there?"

    "Everybody's got to be someplace. Seemed like the place to be at the time. I can move along now that you're back."

    "You going to thumb a ride on one of those planes? ... or maybe fly one of them?"

    "No, Captain, just looking for a place to hang. I be moving along as soon as I grab my tackle."

    "Don't be in such an all fired hurry to get shut of us. Where you from? What do you do in life as we know it?"

    "Yeah Bobby, lay it on him. Here's a cold one to wet your whistle."

    "Hey, the Captain's alright ... he don't buy that cheap beer!"

    "Yup, look at this shit! We done died and gone to heaven! ... no more pork and beans."

    "No more macaroni out of a can."

    "No more processed cheese on white crackers."

    "Hey, careful there before you insult my redneck cuisine!"

    "Ummm, he even bought dill pickles!"

    "Is Mother Hubbard going to party hardy?!"

    "Captain, if I was divorced, I'd marry you! ... you take better care of me than my wife did!"

    "Hey asshole, she wasn't your mother ... you know what the word husband means?"

    "Why you guys always take her part against me?"

    "Uh, couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that she's a bunch better looking than you!"

    "Or that she smells better!"

    "Or that you're a lazy lying worm that would try to fuck a rolling doughnut!"

    "Okay, okay ... I want to hear Bobby's sob story, so save the punch-up for later."

    "Nothing much to tell. I'm from Louisiana. I'm divorced. I got two kids that got no use for me. And I do odd jobs helping out folks around the neighborhood."

    "You mean the 'hood? ... or the ghet-to?"

    "No. It's just where I live."

    "And how do you live? ... I mean, working for small change, trading under the counter. Are you an urban guerrilla? ... a noble revolutionary bringing down the evil capitalist system by gobbling the crumbs that spill from the mouths of fat cats and rich bitches? Or are you just another charity case, ambling along the pity promenade with your rice bowl?!"

    "Cut him some slack, Captain. He's one of us."

    "Yeh, Bobby was a grunt in The Nam."

    "Don't nobody need to fight my fight. If Captain Cracker wants to get in my face, well ...."

    "Going to eat his lunch?"

    "Oh, where? ... when? ... with who?"

    "Yeh, he was based out of Little Appalachia."

    "Well, if you're going to be one ...."

    "All together now boys ...."

    "... be a BIG RED ONE!"

    "Yeh, and he was almost a Big Dead One. On his third week in country ...."

    "Oh shit! ... not another one!"

    "Yup, just like Dangerous Dan and To The Max."

    "Good Lord ... kiss my ass. Did you even know where you were?"

    "No sir, not a clue."

    "Could've been an FTX in Georgia ... right?"

    "Or the wilderness of Virginia."

    "You said it."

    "Or even good old Louisiana. Right in my own backyard."

    "Love the way he says that ... like it's another country."

    "Or planet."

    "You ever notice how they spell it? ... with the U S A emphasized. They're the only state that can."

    "So he's sitting there in the jungle, doing what he's told, minding his own business, and Mister Charles decides to put one into his head ... BLAM! And the lights go out."

    "World of hurt, dude."

    "Damn dink must have been an FNG too, or else he'd have picked a better target. Just bad joss, Bobby."

    "Sometimes you wonder."

    "So, actually, you can't be a revolutionary, 'cause if the Big Bad Machine stops printing checks for you to live on then you'd have to go out and find some real work. No more off the books coin for beer and poker."

    "Not am, never was. But that money tree died when my wife divorced me."

    "Yeh, apportionment is a bitch."

    "It must be part of the All Girl Survival Training course."

    "You'd think that feminists would be too proud to take alimony out of disability compensation, but I've never met a woman yet who didn't weigh a man's wallet while she was measuring his dong!"

    "Feminist? ... no, not just ball-busters, but ALL of them!"

    "You got some mail, Captain. I threw out the junk."

    "Damn, wipe that smear of brown stuff off your nose!"

    "Hey asshole, you afraid he's going to throw you out?"

    "... up your rent?"

    "You sound like some stupid e-mail server! We're trying to have a con-verse-sation here."

    "Lighten up. If you're still stoked, go hump some beer."

    "Well Bobby, what do you want to do? ... relocate to this arboreal paradise? ... or return to the fetid swamps of your native bayou? Hell, if you didn't get malaria over there then you can certainly get it back home!"

    "My daughter got all the money from my last check, so I need to hang somewhere 'til the next one is issued ... then I can go back home."

    "You didn't answer his question."

    "Can, may, should, would, could, want ... whatever."

    "I haven't decided yet. This is nice country, and I've met some nice people."

    "Present company excepted?"

    "That's fine, bro."

    "I can move my stuff if someone will show me where to go."

    "Hang tough. A bed is not necessary for my discomfort ... I can be almost as uncomfortable on the floor."

    "We'll rearrange some things, and I'll break-out an extra sleeping bag from my footlocker for you, Cap."

    "There's enough room here for everyone. Just rack-out where you were billeted. The landlord gives me some wiggle room, just as long as we don't disturb our neighbors or make a mess."

    "Jody took me out a couple of days last week and he had us panhandling ...."

    "Yeh, Captain Krunch, he was terrific! ... those scars, and I put a bunch of your medals on his shirt. I was wearing my cammies with the old hook exposed. I really got into it!"

    "They looked like Street Theater performers."

    "Yeh, play to the crowd. Get into the role. Find some square to rap with and make him feel like a wimp for not being a hero."

    "Like you?"

    "Well, sure ... even if I don't have all the brass that you do. I was there. I did my bit. That's more than most of America ever does."

    "All your war stories have come from HollyWEIRD, where they pack shit in foil and everyone thinks it's chocolate!"

    "Say Captain, don't misunderstand me. I just went along to help pay my way. If I was back home, I'd be sweeping somebody's floor or washing their dishes."

    "I'm sorry, guys ... maybe it's the medication, maybe it's just been a long day already, maybe I'm on the rag. I know things are tough, and we got to help each other."

    "Any good mail, Captain?"

    "Not so far ... just bills and notices."

    "Remember I asked you about being down when you first arrived home? Did anything happen that set you off?"

    "You know, Jody, you're worse than a wife, because she had the excuse of ignorance, but you don't. I don't give a shit about those medals, or whether you've truly paid your dues, but you don't seem to care about the fact that the rules are being broken all the time."

    "I didn't write them!"

    "Hey numbnuts, none of us did!"

    "But we all got to live by them, like it or not, fair or not."

    "You can't pick the laws of nature you happen to agree with, and you can't ignore the social contract."

    "It's just like the rules in combat ... the Rules of Engagement. They might not make any sense, especially when we are the only ones obeying them, and we suffer from the other guys not following them, but if we cheat ...."

    "Yeh, if we cheat, then the only one who loses is us."

    "I don't cheat ... what the hell you fuckers talking about?!"

    "All that trash you talk to those civilians ... that's not cheating?"

    "The woe is me song and dance routine that Max charitably characterized as dramatic performance ... that's not cheating?"

    "The medals and patches and cammies ... that's not cheating?"

    "Hell, the patches and medals aren't even yours, and we never wore camouflage uniforms ... they only existed at the end of the war!"

    "Worn by a bunch of REMFs and pogues playing dress-up."

    "That's really not what I meant. That stuff is only the trimming on the outfit ... gilding the lily is what the Buddhists say. Jody, old son, you're lying about our history and people are eager to believe it. So Uncle Sugar screwed you, and Army life was not alot of fun, but you're alive and you can work ... but you don't want to ... you don't want to conform. And, by happy coincidence, you have a visible defect that makes the straight world uncomfortable enough that they willingly give you money to appease their pinched consciences."

    "Hey, whatever works to keep the bread on the table, right?"

    "... except that you're selling your brothers down the stink hole!"

    "I'm NOT! I'm just getting some payback. I'm just punishing those punks who burned their draft cards, protested the war, ran away to foreign parts, and got rich on my sweat, blood, and tears."

    "And THEY got amnesty while we got the shaft!"

    "When the hell has amnesty ever applied to the graveyard?"

    "Oh yeh, rise up brothers and sisters, we done fucked up and we sure is real sorry."

    "And how many of your suckers are reformed hippies? ... are born-again citizens redeemed from criminal cowardice?"

    "Ever known a war protestor who didn't believe he was better or smarter than the dumb dogface in the dirt?"

    "Ever even heard of a war protestor who was unselfish enough to bleed or die for a stranger?!"

    "Ever had a repentant draft-dodger come up to you and confess his sins? ... offer to pay for an extension to be added onto a vet's center?"

    "Or just contribute to your maintenance with some coins tossed into your bush hat?"

    "Who do you think is contributing to your patriotic scam? ... the same people who paid their taxes, raised their families, flew our flag, went to church, and never ever embarrassed anyone in uniform!"

    "Even if his misconduct deserved it."

    "Yeh, while you milk the crowd, you spoil it for the rest of us ... THEY're not your patsy, WE are!"

    "They're good people, the salt of the earth, the so-called Silent Majority ... and you're asking them to pay twice, then and now."

    "Hey, whose side are you on?! They deserve everything I give them and alot more! They boned us, and I'm boning them back!"

    "Oh really ... then you should've ridden in my taxicab today, where I was lectured on the immorality of war and the particular stupidity of the current military fiasco."

    "See, THAT's what gets me about these heartless bastards: you're OBVIOUSLY what you are and they spit on you anyway!"

    "Not anyway, but just BECAUSE of who he is and what he represents."

    "Why'd you put up with it? Why didn't you crank him up tight?"

    "No way ... he may have forgotten about America blaming the troops for not letting us win the war, but I haven't! ... he's only interested in reading the Riot Act to his fellow veterans."

    "Thanks Danny, nice and cold ... tastes good."

    "Thought it might help lower the temper-ature a bit."

    "Or get us all so buzzed that we won't care about anything!"

    "I'll drink to that."

    "Honestly, I don't really know. It actually wasn't all that confrontational ... pretty dispassionate, like we were both going through the motions in the ritual. You've seen bouts like that, where the boxers had to show up and throw some hands, but nobody was interested in breaking a sweat, much less in breaking anybody's chop."

    "So what'd he say? ... I mean, you're rolling out of the veterans' hospital and he suddenly volunteers his philosophy on international relations?"

    "No. At first we just chatted about the weather, the time of year, his day, the new computer they've got in his cab, the stupid way people drive, but when I asked him to drop me at the grocery, he said that he was overdue for a break so he'd just wait for me."

    "You got to watch those quiet ones with their sneak attacks."

    "Like your farts?"

    "Like your brain farted and your lips flapped!"

    "So there's this really handsome Vietnamese lady working the checkout ... you know, the way they all do these days, talking on a cell phone while passing your purchases over the bar-code scanner, as if the customer didn't exist ... so I spoke to her in my fractured Vietnamese."

    "Well sir, since you only know how to swear and threaten grievous bodily harm in gook-ese, I'll bet she wasn't very impressed!"

    "Oh, big strong Captain Round-eye, you hairy as my pet monkey! You have nose like dog, ears like elephant, and tail like teeny tiny snake ... chop, chop, all gone now!"

    "Oh, so sad."

    "Yeh, no bet."

    "She used the mask of the inscrutable oriental to avoid replying, but I kept talking ... asking her where she was from? ... where her family was from? ... was her family still alive? ... were they refugees? ... was their travel to America difficult? ... was she married? ... did she have children? ... and so forth. She finally responded."

    "Probably out of great desperation! ... cheez, won't this whack-o ever shut up?"

    "Like, hell-lo, can't you see I'm talking on the phone?"

    "Under-whelmed her right off her Ho Chi Minh sandals."

    "Maybe she thought he was a government agent checking on her with all those personal questions about her private life."

    "Max, that's a good point. It would be very rude to confront any other stranger in this intimate manner, but we think we've got some sort of unremitting bond with all Southeast Asians."

    "Instant familiarity ... just add sweat and blood."

    "And a little gunpowder for that special zest."

    "And some Agent Orange for even more pizazz!"

    "Roger that."

    "She wanted to know why I was interested, so I told her that I'd spent a couple of years in her country as an advisor."

    "Somebody, maybe Max or Dan, was telling me that you were up north and that you worked with Black people. I heard the native women went around topless all the time ... is that true?"

    "I told him you worked with 'yards, but I never said nothing about bumble in the jungle!"

    "That's okay, no sweat. Yes Bobby, I was lucky enough to serve with Montagnards ... we called them Strikers ... of mostly the Bahnar, Jarai, and Bru tribes. They were fine people, decent and courageous, honest and honorable ... and for years after America abandoned those falling Southeast Asian dominoes, they believed we would return and help them attain independence. They died by the thousands, from all sides, in every way possible. Their story is something like that of the American Indian tribes, who also suffered our best and worst intentions ... but that's another subject."

    "And beer ain't strong enough to get us through it."

    "But were the women naked?"

    "Well Bobby, first of all, they aren't black skinned like some African tribes, but, seemingly from Polynesian stock, are short and stocky with light brown skin and straight black hair. They hunted with crossbows, traded for metal implements, and practiced slash and burn farming. Like many primitive peoples, they were patriarchal and matrilineal, with puberty rites for both sexes at adolescence. Because their work was hard and their lives were short, they tended to marry early. It was not unusual to see teenaged mothers carrying a baby in a sling while she worked in a dry hillside rice field."

    "Hey professor, cut to the chase. I don't think Bobby can hold out for the complete ethnography!"

    "He is getting a little twitchy."

    "Yeh, Captain K, we already know you're smart, so tell us about the naked broads!"

    "Not broads, you moron ... lusty teenyboppers!"

    "Why the hell do you think those blanket-heads kept re-enlisting and extending their tours?!"

    "But there was a war going on ...."

    "So? Every paradise has its little flaw ... besides, they couldn't drink beer and screw all the time!"

    "Aw, you just want to be the snake in the next episode!"

    "It was an all-expenses paid vacation to an exotic paradise, so it's only reasonable that they'd have to take out the trash every so often."

    "Well, honeybunch, got to go out and kill a few commies, but I'll be back real soon."

    "Whew yeh! ... and pass me a cold one."

    "Rice wine, not beer."

    "Yeh, must have been really tough ... even with home-brewed saké."

    "Hmmm, do I want to eat these C-ration peaches or do I want to contribute them to the tribal distillery for some truly primo brandy cordial?"


    "Yeh boy ... donate!"

    "Ummm, love that jungle juice!"

    "Must have been out in the sun too long to even ask!"

    "This doesn't taste anything like brandy!"

    "That's because it's not, you dolt!"

    "So Captain, how many blonde 'yards have you fathered?!"

    "Hey, isn't there a letter in that stack of mail I passed you from some agency having something to do with Montagnards?"

    "Yeh, show us pictures of your abandoned children!"

    "They're not called Sneaky Petes for nothing!"

    "No wife, no kids, no secrets. Just a receipt for some money to buy food and medicine. Entirely unexciting."

    "Says him."

    "Can't trust officers."

    "He probably has the entire family album safely stowed in a bank vault."

    "You mean the unabridged and unexpurgated pictures of busty Gram, booby Mom, buxom Sis, bosomy Auntie, and titless Daughter ... just a little too young at this stage."

    "And the one of the topless elephant racer with hair flying as she edges out her competition by a tip!"

    "Hey, we shouldn't be talking this way."

    "But I love to study those photo-finishes ... such a lovely tip!"

    "Because it's the Captain's secret bevy of luscious ladies?"

    "Of course not! Didn't he get to ogle the Asian checker? And did the selfish swine rent a movie for us?"

    "Hell no!"

    "No. After lazing around the hospital with all those wanton nurses, our champion flirts with an oriental cutie on his way back here to lecture us about primitive rituals."

    "Uh-oh, Bobby's getting more excited."

    "No! Don't get him started! He'll tell us about wearing the loincloth again!"

    "And killing the water buffalo ...."

    "And eating some of it raw!"

    "And being inducted as a blood brother, or impecunious uncle, or unfortunate son, or some other disadvantageous relation in the tribe. You'd think that cheap tin bracelet was a gold medal or a blue ribbon or something very special for all the attention he pays it."

    "Okay, okay, enough is enough. It is precious. One of my advisor friends used these bracelets when he married."

    "Of course he did ... you officers are too stingy to buy real jewelry!"

    "Bobby, do you remember how hot it was in Vietnam?"

    "Just like Louisiana."

    "Except that it's cooler in the Highlands, and the rainy season gets quite cold. So, for the most part, both Montagnard men and women were bare chested ...."

    "Say dude, I'm not into naked boys ... just girls."

    "The men wore loincloths and the women wore wrapped skirts or sarongs in their tribal color pattern. Puberty rites involved filing of the teeth in tribal fashion. Everyone was barefoot until we arrived with alien ideas. Men tended to smoke and women tended to chew betel nut, but both would do either."

    "What does this have to do with naked jugs?"

    "Don't be crude. They're what the feminists want: unfettered mammary glands!"

    "Picture it: a person who lives in a thatched hut beside a muddy stream, who works hard all day at many chores, and relaxes with a narcotic that stains the skin and teeth. This romantic model bore her first child shortly after menstruation began and kept bearing until she no longer could, due to debilitation or age. She will not receive medical or dental care throughout her life. When she smiles her mouth looks like a vicious wound, and her teeth are either black or missing. Her feet are dirty, her body is sweat streaked, and her hair is greasy. Her few possessions, a few implements and some animals, are kept nearby, and their residue is evident. If she is still nursing her children, dried milk will extend from her nipples, and flies will walk over her breasts. If she is beyond breeding, her breasts will lay deflated against her washboard ribs, as a public testament of her exhaustion. This forest nymph is not unlike her sisters around the world, being only a little more unspoiled by technology and urbanization. From a distance, she is every poet's dream; and propinquity makes one marvel at racial survival."

    "Well, Bobby, you still hep on an arcadian idyll?"

    "Not any more. He busted it good."

    "Look at him ... he acts like he just learned that Santa Claus isn't real!"

    "He's not twitching anymore."

    "Man, that's been a dream for over thirty years. I can't get the image of flies drinking her milk out of my head! I'm not crushed ... I'm just really really sad."

    "He's crushed."

    "Yup, flat. No good lying about it."

    "Like finding the corpse of the Tooth Fairy under your pillow."

    "Kind of puts me off sex a little bit too."

    "Who the hell would give you any?!"

    "On the other hand ...."

    "There ain't no way you're ever going to beat your meat with two hooks!"

    "That's why there are adult sexual aids."


    "You think the VA will buy me some of those?"

    "Not aides, you moron!"

    "All you can do is ask. The clerk might take pity on you, even if your requisition is denied."

    "Be some ugly witch for sure!"

    "Or some guy."

    "Some fancy guy ... Dangerous Dan might like it!"


    "Don't spill my beer!"

    "Okay, okay, settle down. I wanted to explain about the checker."

    "Once an officer, always an officer."

    "What kind of upper-toppers did she have?"

    "She reversed the interrogation by asking me when I was in her country, what I did, where I worked, if I'd been wounded there, and so on. Then she hit me with the answer that was supposed to either shut me up or turn me into the stereotypical crazed Vietnam vet ... I think she was hoping for the latter so she could have me arrested."

    "Let me guess ...."

    "You know it. Welcome to the New Socialist Republic of America."

    "She was, of course, too young to have lived during the American War, as they call it, but I had thought she would have family that was touched by the war that we knew. She told me that she was from Hanoi, that her family was well and comfortable, and that she was married to a Canadian who also worked here."

    "Hey, ain't it great? ... a two Green Card family."

    "We're just a goddamn doormat for everyone who wants a higher income."

    "... a higher standard of living."

    "I continued talking with her, just like the supposed argument with the cabdriver, but it didn't mean anything to either of us. I intruded upon the privacy of a pert young woman, and she now had a gotcha story to share with her resident alien friends."

    "Big dumb soldier tried to talk some trash with me and I shot him down ... again. Someday he'll learn not to mess with Vietnam!"

    "Power to the peasants."


    "I couldn't help thinking about all the innocent people who were imprisoned as war criminals because they happened to be on the other side, of the political criminals who worked on farms, in shops, and prayed to non-communist Gods, and how they all went into slave labor camps for re-education."

    "And little Miss Hanoi gets a free ride to the Land of the Big PX."

    "I cannot forget the execution of our former allies and associates. I know that war isn't fair, but there's no compassion, not there, and not here either."

    "What about all the refugees, preyed upon by pirates and warlords, and if they survived, these escapees would be forcibly returned to the new regime for punishment."

    "Yeh, how many Americans love freedom that much?"

    "How many Americans could endure the same ordeal?"

    "How many Americans could even accomplish what our pioneer forebears did as a matter of course?"

    "Hey, don't underestimate the modern American who will shop till she drops, pay to view other people playing games ...."

    "... other people having sex!"

    "... travel great distances to visit places that are indistinguishable from every other place."

    "Kiss my ass ... what are you talking about? ... most Americans couldn't even finish boot camp!"

    "Let's not get lost on a tangent of envy and jealousy."



    "W T F O!"

    "Are you still medicated?!"

    "He's just messing with your mind. Check his eyes, see the smile?"

    "You're toast."


    "Deep fried."

    "So then what happened? ... I mean, there you are with twenty cases of beer and twenty bags of chewies, and little Miss Hanoi is finding you quite resistible ...."

    "Right. Led a cavalcade of bag boys out to the taxi ...."

    "Ah, the return of the native."

    "You're too friggin' intellectual."

    "Not me ... HIM!"

    "And did the professor lecture you on the ecological and medicinal ramifications of imported beer?"

    "Of course not."

    "No, of course not ... he only tried to incite the horde of exhausted bag boys into going on strike against labor, which everyone knows is a demeaning condition of subordination and servitude."

    "What is he talking about?"

    "If you give him another beer he won't talk anymore."

    "Like I said, we were just going through the motions. He said that the Vietnam War was immoral, so I rebutted with a request for a moral war, and he predictably said World War Two ...."

    "Talk about predictable ... these clones all mimic the same catechism."

    "... so I itemized the litany of atrocities. My words didn't change his mind, and neither did his change mine."

    "You weren't talking, you were playing ping-pong."


    "He claimed that all war is evil, especially the one we're now fighting, so I pointed out that war was the only way to stop such evil."

    "Did your paradox flummox him?"

    "Cheez, no more beer for you!"

    "Does this look like a seminar or a bullshit session?"

    "A colloquium."

    "He wanted to bash the military, scorn soldierly sacrifice, belittle political effort, and betray national objectives, so I asked how this differed from the usual drivel proliferated by pacifists and protestors and complainants?"

    "And he just said that it was wrong ... right?"

    "Essentially. But he couldn't understand why I hadn't learned anything while I was at war or afterwards in the hospitals."

    "The other side of that argument is that you cannot admit your misguided and misspent youth because you have been permanently marked by your decision."

    "You mean that if I concede my base instincts then my body will be miraculously restored?!"

    "These people have tried to turn humanism into a religion, while denying the spirituality that surrounds us all the time."

    "If you profess anything they can use, then the only reward is exploitation, not redemption."

    "Aren't they the ones who advocated what goes around comes around?"

    "The chickens come home to roost."

    "But they think they're immune."

    "Yeh, shit happens, but it only happens to the deserving."

    "They believe that they can carry the stuff without getting any of it on themselves, without stinking or drawing flies!"

    "My people used to say that if you pass hate, then you will receive hate; and if you pass around love, then maybe we'll all get love."

    "That says it, Bobby."

    "You come from smart people."

    "Man, that smells good!"

    "And looks good too."

    "Careful there Bobby, the platter is hot. I made some hors d'oeuvres for us to snack on while this convocation is in session."

    "Now if you was pretty and could cook like this ...."

    "Nice job Danny."

    "Tastes great! ... and it really is hot!"

    "What exactly is it?"

    "You girls want to swap recipes?"

    "Bite me."

    "No, I mean, what all is in it?"

    "It's just some spinach and egg and cayenne pepper and two kinds of cheese tucked into a wrapper. Real simple."


    "Got any napkins?"

    "And more cold beer?"

    "This is good ... the best I've eaten in a long time."

    "You know that love isn't the only thing that grows the more it's shared ...."

    "That's a little too touchy feely for me."

    "Then try this. Freedom is the one thing that can be endlessly given without loss."

    "Even if they abuse it?"

    "... to the cabby?"

    "... to little Miss Hanoi?"

    "Certainly. They're wasteful and preoccupied ...."

    "But we bled for them, and their disrespect is insulting."

    "We also bled for us, for ourselves, for each other, so we could be more appreciative than they are."

    "We know what freedom costs."

    "Maybe they'll learn it, maybe they won't, but would you deny it to them because they want to deny it to others?"

    "That would make us just like them."

    "We spend tax dollars sending kids to school, but if they don't want to use the opportunity to learn ...."

    "Right. Close the schools. Fill up the jails. Who is standing the first watch? And Captain, pass that mail back over here so I can inspect it."

    "You look too damned subversive to be an enforcer."

    "We've already been through the young and reckless stage, so the next phase should be applying our hard earned wisdom."

    "Passing the lessons learned along to the next bunch of troops."

    "I sure as hell remember what it was like to be the only one who didn't have a clue."

    "You weren't the only one ... everybody else was faking it."

    "Well, we've proved ourselves, so we definitely don't have to fight every fight."

    "You right. And the ones we choose to fight better mean something."

    "Better result in something other than dead bodies."

    "... something worthwhile."

    "I look at it a little different. You've got to fight enough to stay alert, keep fit, be responsive, so that fighting is part of survival. You don't fight for the hell of it, but you only fight to win."

    "I disagree. Winning doesn't justify fighting, but fighting just to fight, or fighting not to win is stupid."

    "There are things more important than winning or fighting."

    "Such as?"

    "Such as family, home or homeland, faith or trust or honor ... and they're beyond price."

    "And so is comradeship."

    "The guys who've been in the trenches with you are the only ones who can share some feelings, appreciate some memories, who can know what no one else can understand."

    "Trying to explain it to someone who hasn't experienced it is like speaking a foreign language in a strange culture."

    "Like the Hindu parable of the blind men examining the elephant ... no offense, Bobby."

    "Isn't that why we're all divorced?"

    "You can't talk to them."

    "You can talk alright, but they don't understand."

    "Not just wives, but anyone who hasn't been out on the edge."

    "They say that they want to know, but then they don't get it ... like telling a joke that can't be explained."

    "And some of them get real excited when they think you're going to tell them something horrible."

    "Yeh, like little kids who want to be scared as long as you're there to hold their hand, to reassure them."

    "They want to reassure us, but you can tell how the idea of violence really gets them excited."

    "Yeh, it's a turn-on for them ...."

    "... you know the way some women like guys to fight over them?"

    "It's the same kind of kinky thrill ...."

    "... like they want you to be brutal and gentle at the same time!"

    "And you know its a big mistake as soon as you start talking into their glazed eyes ...."

    "... gazing at something deep inside that is running in her head, affecting her breathing and making her wet."

    "But guys act that way too."

    "Sure they do, and you know what to do with some punk who wants to suck you off!"

    "... uh, figuratively. They're just voyeurs."

    "Hey professor, fuck your big words! ... they want to play with my brain!"

    "They would eat your heart if they could!"

    "... you soul."

    "The mere revelation diminishes the value of the experience. It's like talking about it invalidates ...."

    "I'm hep."

    "Roger that."

    "But we've talked about things ...."

    "... we've shared, even though none of us has had the same experience, but we still understand each other."

    "Okay, two things: we have more in common than any civilian does, and we have a positive attitude toward the events described."

    "We don't put each other down."

    "We don't discredit each other."

    "When you talk to a civilian with an ulterior motive, he or she is exploiting you ...."

    "... using you like a dildo!"

    "... which cheapens the act, the exchange, the memory."

    "Any of you guys ever brag about sex?"

    "Yeh, sure."

    "Of course."

    "Natch ... we're card-carrying pigs!"

    "You ever describe sex with your girlfriend or sweetheart? Talk about what you and your wife did, the way it felt?"

    "Jeez! ... that's sick!"

    "Hell no!"

    "Of course not."

    "And why not?"

    "It's too private ...."

    "... too personal."

    "... too intimate."

    "... too sensitive."

    "It's too special."

    "It's nobody else's business!"

    "Well, it's the same thing. Ever listened to some pathetic soul sincerely witness his faith?"



    "Phony baloney."

    "Not necessarily. But if he does it regularly, then it's not a profession of faith, but a dramatization."

    "Yeh, he's acting the role."

    "And how many professional vets have we seen acting a role?"

    "Why you always on my ass?!"

    "Ah, the guilty flee when none pursue."

    "Oh, fuck you very much!"

    "Modern life is synthetic. We didn't have to invent rituals because they were integral to our lives."

    "Now everybody can be anybody."

    "B T D T."

    "Got the t-shirt."

    "That's why primitive religions always conceal the name of God ... it's too precious to be exposed to anything not sacred."

    "And the profanation doesn't diminish Him, but us."

    "Right on, brother."

    "Tell a war story and it becomes just another commodity."

    "Or a game."

    "You right."

    "Say what? ... ummm, bad trip, dude ... you want another drink?"

    "... say your best friend died in your arms, well I had this dog once ...."

    "Or they sneer at you for not being like some book or movie."

    "Or they look right through you, like you never spoke and don't exist."

    "That's probably why every war story I've ever heard, present company excepted, of course, was pure unadulterated bullshit."

    "Got to lie, if you don't want to feel that dirty digit!"

    "... that fickle finger of fate."

    "B O H I C A!"

    "Not all of us are liars."

    "And none of us are baby killers! ... so what?!"

    "They made me into the animal I am today."

    "Whew, rude, crude, and tattooed!"

    "If they want an animal to stare at, then they got to pay."

    "I'd settle for some petting."

    "You disgusting sex maniac!"

    "Not all of us are on the make."

    "Not all of us are divorced."

    "I seen your hairy ass hanging out of the bed this morning, so if you got a home to go to, why the hell are you stinking up my room?!"

    "This is my home, you know that. I'm just not divorced ... not yet."

    "You said it: home. It's the only place to share certain insights, sensations, realizations."

    "It's not only a place to share some truth and trust, it's where my life was saved ... again."

    "Yeh, I been there too."

    "I been so far out that only a comrade could walk me back from the edge."

    "We all save each other's lives ... just like before, in another time and place."

    "And is it worth it?"

    "Well, I'm grateful."

    "Yeh, me too."

    "It's like we were saying about picking your fight. I'm not pointed in a positive direction anymore ... I'm just trying to avoid heading in a negative direction."

    "Roger that. The hell with trying to be first, just as long as I'm not last."

    "Trying to be the best is kid's stuff, like fighting and drinking and acting up."

    "Life is not school. Look at all the hot-shot fast-movers who burned out early."

    "Usually getting a bunch of good troops killed in their blaze of glory."

    "Yeh, I'm not trying to be good; I just don't want to be bad."

    "That funny to you, Captain?"

    "So glad we could amuse you with ...."

    "No, not you. This letter. Oh lord, what a hoot!"

    "Read it."

    "What is it?"

    "Hey, this is o-ffic-ial. It's from Uncle Sugar."

    "Whew! He got a draft notice!"

    "No. He's an officer. It's got to be the IRS auditing his investments."

    "It's from the VA ... the director of the Regional Office. It says that they have examined my records and have determined that I am now rehabilitated!"



    "I'm ready for that miracle any time now."

    "Have they looked at you? ... I mean, they do realize that you are a poster child for scar tissue, don't they?"

    "What does it mean?"

    "Anybody else received one of these?"


    "No way."

    "Send me one of those and I'm going to send the director into orbit!"

    "I'm not sure what it means, Bobby, but I think they're trying to tell me that they're tired of passing paperwork on me."

    "Does this mean that you have to pay for your own treatment?"

    "Does this mean that you don't have any benefits anymore?"

    "Good thing you got a job."

    "I don't think it means that I'm done, but that they're done!"

    "What are you going to do, Captain?"

    "You could get cards printed up saying that you're now officially rehabilitated."

    "Hey, why not frame the letter, and mount it on the door ...?"

    "You've been in too many motel rooms!"

    "... not on the inside, but on the outside, where everyone will see it."

    "We could enlarge it and hang it on the living room wall."

    "We could seal the letter in plastic laminate and attach it to the back of your wheelchair."

    "What did the Sons of Liberty do with edicts and such proclamations?"

    "I think they just tore them down."

    "They might have kept the paper for re-use ... it was valuable in those days."

    "Well, this is not worth mustering the Minutemen ...."

    "Ummm, does that mean that this is not a worthy fight?"

    "That's an apt metaphor."

    "So, if you're not going to make them retract it, Captain, then what exactly are you going to do with it?"

    "Piss on it, my friend ... piss on it!"

    "I'll drink to that!"

    "We'll all drink to that!"

    "And we'll all piss on it!"

    "Ahhh, brotherhood ... ain't it beautiful?!"

    "Another round please."

by Achill Kerne
... who is a combat disabled veteran and freelance writer of enigmatic works published in obscure literary magazines, evanescent chapbooks, and other cultural ephemera; his home is a haven to wildings, host to misfits, and hostel to other societal detritus.

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