Viet Nam

The Viet Nam War was a defining event in my life. I lived in a town of a thousand people where everyone pretty much knew everyone else and the losses were strongly felt. When I was a senior in high school, my friend’s brother was killed there. He was just nineteen, the oldest child in a family of twelve children, killed by a sniper’s bullet. His sister and his girlfriend were both my age and it hit our whole class hard. Most of the seniors went to the funeral. There was a grief beyond our understanding as the dead boy’s grandmother threw herself on his coffin at the cemetery, sobbing loudly and calling out “Johnny, Johnny”. I doubt I will ever forget it. I mentioned John to his sister at our 40th high school reunion several years ago and her response was, “Oh Mary, that was such a long time ago.” Recently I was behind a van with a license plate holder that proclaimed the driver to be a Viet Nam veteran. I’m not exactly sure what I expected when I pulled up alongside him at a stop light, certainly not the white haired man  at the wheel. I guess it really was a long time ago.

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