Betrayal of Innocence

Reads: 43  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

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

I believed in so many things growing up along the Rio Grande. I even believed in dreams and was told I could make my dreams come true if I just strived hard enough and believed. I believed in family and in friends, and I believed in God and the promise of life everlasting. But as a young naïve young man growing up along the Rio Grande, I mostly believed in the greatness of America . . . .

BETRAYAL OF INNOCENCE

By Al Garcia


I believed in so many things growing up along the Rio Grande.  I even believed in dreams and was told I could make my dreams come true if I just strived hard enough and believed.  I believed in family and in friends, and I believed in God and the promise of life everlasting.  But as a young naïve young man growing up along the Rio Grande, I mostly believed in the greatness of America and the promises I read about and heard about, and saw around me every day – the promise that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Truths that according to our founders, are self-evident.  Truths that I believed applied to everyone of whatever color, creed or ethnicity, even to a brown-skinned boy like me.

But words and promises, no matter how eloquent or powerful, do not always translate well into real life and into the daily lives of real people simply trying to exist – and I also learned this truth growing up along the Rio Grande.  And that was my first betrayal of innocence – the realization that not all men are created equal, and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not automatically bestowed on all, and not ever on some.  It was the betrayal of the American promise.

As a young boy, this betrayal was not easy to accept or handle.  To come to the realization that I was an American, but that my family and I were not recognized or accepted as full-fledged American, was bewildering and baffling to me, even at that young age.  This was an awareness within the depth of me that broke my heart and darkened my soul.  And it wasn’t spoken of, it was just an accepted part of life – my life.  How could I explain to someone not brown or black or yellow, the pain that lingers inside the heart and soul of a young boy like me, betrayed simply because of the color of my skin, and a heritage older than the country I was born in?

Time, changing seasons, patience, and the willingness of some to stand up and speak up, eventually began to change the social and political atmosphere and tone of the America I lived in and loved.  And with the changing tides, so too came my ability to blend in, fit in, and eventually attain my unalienable rights that had been denied to me and to many before me for so long.  Little did I know, however, that there was yet one more betrayal to come in my life. A betrayal more profound, more vulgar and deceitful – the ultimate betrayal.

It is hard to put into words, much less to make someone feel, the anguish, the ache, the stress and the loneliness of war.  Imagine young boys being rounded up, loaded on airplanes and dropped off in the middle of a war.  Unprepared, inexperienced, raw, innocent young boys.  Now imagine a feeling of knowing you’ve been used and lied to by someone you trusted and believed – your own country -- America.  The war was Vietnam.  And that was the hard reality for many of us just coming of age -- not yet men, but forced to grow up too fast, too soon.

For many of us naïve young boys and men who found ourselves in Vietnam in the 1960s, we quickly learned the truth about Vietnam and the truth about the American presence there.  We were simply a bunch of boys and young men thrown into a hailstorm of political and hostile warfare, without strategy or direction, other than to persevere.  And when many of us realized the situation, we had been placed in, a sense of betrayed overcame us, along with a sense of fear.  That was quickly followed by frustration, disappointment and finally disillusionment.  We were simply pawns in a political game of chicken – and we were the chicken that was getting run over in the middle of the road.  But for me, even this was not the ultimate betrayal.

I was blindsided by the ultimate betrayal on September 5, 1968, while stationed at Fort Caron, Colorado.  It was on that day so many years ago, that I learned that my friend, my neighbor, my high school classmate, Lionel Ryan, had been killed in Quang Nam, Vietnam.  He had only been in Vietnam for a couple of weeks.  He was a Marine.  He was 20 years old.  He was a boy like me, and not yet a man.  And I was devastated.  Deep down inside I knew I had lost my innocence.  My faith was challenged.  And I questioned the reason why, and I felt guilty to be alive.

Within months, I found myself in Vietnam on “special assignment” to the Public Information Office in the Mekong Delta.  And as a military combat journalist, I saw and felt firsthand what was happening and how it was affecting our soldiers’ confidence, drive, and optimism.  And it wasn’t for the better.  I had a “cushy” job, traveling throughout the Mekong Delta -- interviewing soldiers and officers, escorting touring celebrities and visiting dignitaries.  However, I found myself drawn to places that placed me in harm’s way – in isolated outposts near the Cambodian border, on patrol boats on the Mekong River with Special Forces, in jungles and on mountain tops that looked down on enemy strongholds.  Anywhere but the safety of my office in Can Tho, simply to run out the clock on my one year assignment.  And I finally realized what I was doing.  I wanted to feel, to see, to experience what my friend Lionel had gone through.  I wanted to stop the guilt I felt inside.

And after all these years, the guilt has not left me, nor have the images or sounds of war.  Betrayal does so many different things to people.  I knew about death growing up along the Rio Grande, and could conceive of it and understand it in my own way, but not the death of friends my age with dreams to fulfill and lives to complete.  What I could never have conceived, was the betrayal by our country and by our leaders.  And I cried back then, and still feel the sadness, because of my shattered delusion of truth that was withheld from me, from Lionel, and from so many other young brave and frightened boys in Vietnam, and families left back home.

There was more than a betrayal of innocence when I was growing up.  There was a betrayal of potential never realized.  My youth was a failure of acceptance and respect, and later on, Vietnam was a failure of shared hopes and discarded dreams – two betrayals that still linger inside my shattered soul.


Submitted: May 24, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:


Facebook Comments

More War and Military Short Stories

Other Content by A.Garcia

Essay / Editorial and Opinion