March of Broken Soldiers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Mourning the loss of friends and total strangers, American GIs serving in the wastelands and vastness of the Mekong Delta of Vietnam are quickly confronted with the reality of war.

MARCH OF BROKEN SOLDIERS

By Al Garcia

Mourning the loss of friends and total strangers, American GIs serving in the wastelands and vastness of the Mekong Delta of Vietnam are quickly confronted with the reality of war.  For many, the innocence of age and the simplicity and immaturity of intellect, only added to the surreal and foreign sights and sounds that bombarded their minds and thoughts.  The sight of death overwhelming and alien.  The smell of sweat and fear intermingled with the aroma of spent ammo and blood, lingering and hovering like vultures over the killing fields of war.

And the boys who once marched naively and trustingly to the front of line now humbled by the actuality before them.  No do-overs.  No going back.  No choice, but to march forward, leaving behind the vestiges of what used to be.  Always taught to be the aggressor.  The hunter.  Never taught to be the prey or the hunted.  Never taught how to die or how to say goodbye and simply march away. 

They learned, I heard, like all who had passed this way before – the only way that war bestows its senselessness and madness – through the sights and sounds that can make a grown man shudder and a young boy shed a tear.  This was how Vietnam made men of boys -- you shed a tear and then you learn.  A rite of passage where the ceremony and the sacrament occurred in the fields and jungles, mountains and rivers, rice paddies and along long deserted roads, where, without warning, cries of agony and the spectacle of fear and death could break the silence and the rhythm of the march of broken soldiers.

And as the days would grow into weeks and months, we became a band of brothers.  I include myself in this fusion of emotion and passion with the boys and men I met along the way in my travels through the hot and humid delta that was our killing field.  To hear the stories I was told, and to see the look of anger and of fear in the eyes of disillusioned and betrayed, and to hear the faltering words as some replayed a nightmare that still haunted and obsessed their mind and soul, I could not but be affected and distressed by how the sights and sounds of war had so destroyed the innocence that once had been. 

Day in and day out, the absurdity and futility of war was lived by a band of brothers formed of need, understanding and acceptance. The rite of passage one experiences in war is one that never is forgotten.  To feel the adrenaline rush of fear or to smell the scent of death and carnage that surrounds you, or to feel the eyes of a predator behind or to the side of you, destroys the innocence and humanity that once loomed inside the human soul. 

As I was leaving Vietnam for the last and final time, I looked through the window of the Freedom Bird that would fly me home and watched as fellow soldiers continued to board the airplane.  And what I saw coming toward me was the march of broken soldiers -- innocence lost, faith challenged, and body and spirit defeated and crushed.

We were to be eventually known as the Vietnam Vets.  And like my father’s war and his father before him, I learned that war destroys not only the enemy, but a part of ourselves as well.  Sometimes even the humanity and empathy that once defined us and explained us.

And the march of the broken soldiers continues,


Submitted: May 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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