The Unseen War

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
You will enter the lives of two different men, one black and the other white as they encounter the gruesome reality of being sent off to the Vietnam war. Two heart-wrenching stories that will change your perspective on war, and show you the real meaning of friendship.

Submitted: September 04, 2016

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Submitted: September 04, 2016

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It was the start of the Vietnam War for the United States. The brutal reality came to light as families had no choice but to let their sons go to fight in a war where innocent lives are taken by the minute. They had no choice but to come to the difficult fact that they might not see their son again. These families will only be left with the memories of their child from the day they first learned to walk to the day they take their last step out of the door. Two lives will take on the savage journey of life as vietnam soldiers.

Jim

Gaba. Jim Gaba. He grew up in a small, segregated town in Alabama. Restaurants, Ice Cream Parlors, Parks, Buildings, etcetera were racially divided between whites and blacks. The different colors of people not acknowledging the other, five second stares and even glares is what passed throughout the day. Jim lived life in the 1950’s not knowing anything different than what he witnessed every day.

“Why can’t we all get along?” he questioned himself daily. A five year old boy like him couldn’t grasp the reason as to why he had to sit away from the nice brown folks on the bus when he could only sit in the front with his grandmother.

Jim held on to his mother’s pale hand, eyes glued to the darker family who went around to the back of the restaurant while he and his family through the main door.

Eric

Solomon. Eric Solomon. He grew up in a small, segregated town in Alabama. His black eyelashes shadowed his large, brown doe eyes as he peered at himself through the mirror.

His cocoa toned skin reflected in his eyes, his index finger tracing up and down the lines of his arm. At five years old, he didn’t understand why he could not be with the lighter people. He didn’t understand why he would get a whooping if he didn’t drink at the dirty looking water fountain and listen when his mother says to go through a certain entrance. He couldn’t see why he had to sit in the back of the bus going to grandmother’s house when the lighter people got to sit at the front.

“Why am I different?” he questioned himself day through night.

Eric held on to his mother’s brown hand, eyes stuck to the lighter family going through the main door while he and his family went through the back.

 

The blazing hot sun beat on Eric’s back, beads of sweat line up on his hairline as his bicep muscles contract with each heavy box he loads onto the truck. Now 19 years old, he works for his family’s moving company, making as much money as possible to get to college. He wanted to be the one in his family to complete his education, to make a better life for everyone he loved. Although, he had many racial blocks in the road, he decided it was time for a change and soon, that change would come.

After his work shift was over, he entered one of the restaurants and tuned in to the small television in the corner and listened to President Lyndon B. Johnson address the war that began to progress in Vietnam. The death toll was slowly rising and he knew that he was of age to be drafted. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to leave his family behind. He didn’t want to go to a war that was not worth fighting for, he didn’t want to die and he didn’t want an innocent life on his hands. He wasn’t a murderer, he was a 19 year old boy from a small town in Alabama who had a dream.

 

Eric started on his cold walk home, war very prominent in his mind. As he stepped through the entrance, he saw his family gathered around the small table, the dim light continuously flickering, setting an ominous mood.

A bright, white letter sat flat on the dining table. His heart began to pump, all noises surrounding him began to become quiet, his breathing stilled. He looked around the table. Into his little sister’s eyes, into his father’s eyes, and finally into his mother’s eyes. He glanced at the paper one last time before the world faded and he slipped out of consciousness, his mom's frightened appearance the last thing he sees.

Jim

Jim closed his eyes as he laid on his small twin bed, the bed creaking with every small movement he made. He reflected on his family’s history and thought about how his father was in the war, how his grandfather was in the war and how he was expected of his family to join the vietnam war. Each day, he was pressured to enlist himself into a war that he did not want to be in. To Jim, the war was stupid. It was pointless and he didn’t want to kill an innocent person over a reason that was not logical.

He couldn’t comprehend the fact that his family would even push him into a war, when there’s a chance that they would never see him again. Jim was only 19, he had dreams of becoming a doctor, healing people in need. He wanted to go to college, experience life, fall in love and meet the girl of his dreams but the war would stop that. If he was called a coward than so be it, he didn’t want blood on his hands. He wasn’t a killer.

 

The roar of the mailman's truck interrupted his thought process, he peeked out the window as the truck came up the curvy path to his plantation style home.

The bed made a loud groan as he stood up and jogged down the polished wooden steps. Just as the mailman began to deliver the mail into the house’s mail storage, Jim flung the door open, startling Mr.O’Neal the local postal worker.

“Are you Jim Gaba?” The postman asked.

Jim responded with a slight shake of his head, hair falling into his blond eyelashes.

There was a flat letter in his hand with Jim’s name written on the front. The mail was a pearly white color. A certified death note.  He looked up from the piece of mail and into Mr.O’Neals grim look. The sadness in his eyes. Jim knew what it was. He was speechless, still, the world around him faded. Color drained from his face as he took the message from his hand, said a small farewell, closed the door and let the darkness ta

ke over.

 

Three months later, Jim is once again laying on a small sized twin bed. Although, this time he no longer gets to smell the soft breeze coming through from his bedroom window at home. Now, he smells the cans of beans and small portions of meat sizzling outside of his barrack. He thinks about how much his life has changed in a short span and how he could possibly adapt.

Taking out a sharpened, wooden pencil and a thick sheet of paper from under his thin mattress, he begins to write:

 

Dear Mom,

Bootcamp isn’t so bad after all.  I’ve come to fully acknowledge the fact that I have been drafted into the war. Obviously, I do not want to be here. You know I wish to be home, ma. I want to eat the sweet apple pies you make every sunday night. I miss that. I miss the family, but I want you guys to know all is well. I have transferred to Fort Campbell and have asked permission to be discharged to a medical school. I have fulfilled my basic training and now wish to become a doctor in the war. At least part of my dream will become true, right?

I promise to send letters every few weeks or so. Tell dad I love him.

Your son,

Jim.

Eric

Bullets whizzed past Eric’s head as he tried to duck into cover. His body slithering across the muddy field trying to complete his obstacle course in the time allotted. The task at hand was seemingly easy to Eric, stay low, wriggle around the waterlogged ground and dodge the bullets coming his way.

But by  the middle, he was exhausted. He felt like giving up. He wasn’t like the other men in his camp. They were athletic, and obstacles like these were entertaining for them. Another way for them to get their anger out, but for him it was just another way of showing himself that he wasn’t cut out for a war. It just did not fit him.

Eric had no choice but to accept the fact that he was in it no matter what, at some point soon he was going to take another life and at some point someone might even take his.

 

Finishing up his course and going back to his barrack, he sits and reflects about himself. From the moment a few months ago when his family gave him the draft notice till now. It all seemed so long ago to him, he had no choice but to man up over the span of three months and become a war machine.

He stood up, peered into the small, cracked, cloudy mirror on the wooden wall and stared at himself. He ran his index finger up and down the length of his brown arm. Noticing different size cuts that weren’t there months ago. He looked into his own eyes and felt his insides harden. A protective wall now surrounding him. He was becoming angry, he had goals in life and being in a goddamn war would not help achieve them. Turning around with a new found foreign feeling inside him, he yanked a piece of paper and a pen out from under his slim mattress and began writing:

 

Dear Father,

I’m OK. It’s tough out here and it’s only bootcamp. They chose the wrong person to draft, I can’t do this. I want to be home. I don’t like it here. It’s not worth it and I miss you all. I’m scared I’m going to change into someone I don’t want to become. I feel it in my heart, and going to Vietnam is going to transform me dad. I’m terrified. I’m nervous, and most of all… I don’t want to die. I thought there would be so much more life to come for me but now it feels like a ticking time bomb. Sorry for the depressing letter, but there is no one here I can trust enough to say this to and I trust you dad. Tell the family I love them, Please.

 

Your son,

Eric.

 

Over the next few months, both men continued with their training. Jim becoming a med in the war, and Eric becoming a trained soldier. They both fought with their inner selves daily, they couldn’t seem to let go of the dream that maybe somehow they’d get a letter stating for them to pack their bags and go home. Knowing that those circumstances wouldn’t happen in a million years fed the lonely fire inside of them.  They needed something to get through the war alive, they just didn’t know that soon it’d be the help of  each other.

Jim

Dear Mom,

It’s that time. I’ve completed my basic training to become a medic and it was hardly enough. The war is calling for more doctors and my number has finally been drawn. I’m being transferred to Mau Kai in the jungles of Vietnam. People are dying ma, I know you’ve seen the death toll of fallen soldiers. It is now my duty to help as many people as I can and I swear I will not go down without a fight. I am thankful for you mom. I love you. Tell the family I love them and will cherish every single moment we’ve had. I don’t know when I will be able to send another letter but I pray this will not be my last.

 

Sincerely,

Jim.

Eric
 

Dear Family,

I’m now fully trained and ready to fight. These few months have taught me a lot of things. I know now that being bitter and angry will not keep me alive in Vietnam. I will fight for the United States and I will come out alive for you guys. You will be my motivation. I am being stationed in Mau Kai. Deep in the jungles of Vietnam.  Pray for me. I love you mom. I love you dad. I love you sister. This will be my last letter for a while but it will not be my last.

 

Love,

Eric.

 

The air was sticky and humid, the warm air sticking to his skin. He couldn’t believe the sights. Tall trees as high up as the sky. Colorful birds singing their songs, Vietnam was beautiful, a new land.  Insects he’s never seen before crawling around and over his combat boots, unaware with their miniscule brains that their was a war going on in their home.

 

Eric rested and ate with his platoon. Their M-1 dinner consisting of beef slices with potatoes and gravy. He took a swig from his canteen filled with water and swallowed slowly as the men heard a low noise not too far away.

They were all fully alert, loading their M16 rifles and spreading apart slowly, quietly, stealthily.

A spine tingling noise swept through the area, shots went off.

Jonathan McCant, one of his comrades was lying lifeless on the ground, half his face blown off. His right eyeball resting on his cheek, the bones in his face on full display. The first death Eric has witnessed. Jonathan was someone’s son, a friend, someone’s lover gone forever.

His heart began to pump, he threw and set off a grenade in the direction of the spraying bullets. The ground shook as his grenade exploded.

Death Toll: 1

 

“SOLDIERS MOVE OUT!” Lieutenant Jefferson exclaimed.  The platoon shifted in the other direction as a pack, watching from all angles and shooting when necessary.

Eric felt a change in himself, he was no longer a 19 year old from a small town in Alabama with a dream. He was a 19 year old man with a dream to survive.

Jim

Jim stood and breathed in the warm air. He fell in love with the rich scenery of Vietnam. The green hills, the domesticated animals wandering about. If he wasn’t there to heal dozens of wounded, dying people he would’ve thought maybe he was on vacation. Night was beginning to fall and he prepared back at the station while half the unit moved out for the night to secure the perimeter.

He felt a minor shake in the earth. They’re bombing us and gradually getting closer. His blood was rushing, he was ready. The other half of our unit began calling for backup, strapping up and preparing for battle.

Three hours after they set up camp and it has already begun. He was ready,

 

Jim heard a groaning noise coming from outside the tent, a soldier on the ground bleeding out. He rushed to get his kit and set his knees down trying to assess the wound.

“What’s your name soldier?” Jim asked

“Eric. Eric Solomon sir. And what is your name?” He replied

“Jim. Jim Gaba. You’ve been shot in your arm. luckily, it only deeply grazed your arm.  You’ll be fine.”

Under the circumstances, Jim had to hurriedly douse his wound with alcohol and patch it up.

Eric profusely thanked him and began to prepare quickly for incoming enemies.

 

It came so fast. No one saw it coming. First bomb. Second Bomb. Third Bomb. Bodies exploded into hundreds of pieces, blood splattering. A lone human head rolling on the ground. It was a bloodbath. The entire unit was blown to bits, the only things left were broken dog tags lying on the ground.

 

Survivors: 2

Eric

The sun peeked over the green trees, a new day. Eric slowly opens his eyes, not being able to recall the past events until he sees dozens of bodies showered around the ground. Different body parts lay, legs, arms, heads. It was a gruesome scene. The Viet Cong ambushed our platoon.

He hears whimpering not too far away, he quickly steps over the dead bodies and continues to the noise. He spots Dr.Jim Gaba, sitting almost lifelessly.

“Eric. Find my kit,” Jim mutters painfully

Eric spots the kit a few steps away and runs to grab it, coming back he checks over the doctor and sees his left leg has been blown off. He looks up at Jim’s pale face and sees the color beginning to fade away and his eyes begin to slowly shut.

Eric begins to slap his face to keep him awake, he will not let this man die. He shrugs off his shirt and begins to wrap what is left of his leg to stop the bleeding. Taking Jim onto his back, he lifts him up and begins to run for help.

He stops as he hears a fluttering sound in the distance. A rescue helicopter. Relief floods through his entire body.

The helicopter comes into the distance and lands. They help put Dr.Gaba inside and Eric climbs on board. They look into each other's eyes and Jim shakes his hand weakly before passing out.

As the helicopter flies off to the main base, Eric looks out into the rising sun and thinks about his life and where he is now and prays that in the end, everything will be alright.


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