Living A Nightmare

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

It amazes me how we remember moments in our lives years and even decades after they have occurred. We can recall faces and places, voices, sounds and even smells that bring back images, sensations and emotions of long passed traumas or joys. How powerful the mind can be.

Living A Nightmare

By Al Garcia

It amazes me how we remember moments in our lives years and even decades after they have occurred.  We can recall faces and places, voices, sounds and even smells that bring back images, sensations and emotions of long passed traumas or joys.  How powerful the mind can be.

I am no philosopher or academic, but merely a dreamer.  And it has been dreams that have revealed to me the simplicity of life – that our first breath of life beings the process of our death, while our last moan of death begins the eternity of our life.  And as a young man of 19, I was about to pass through the gates of hell and walk through the valley of the shadow of death, along with other naïve young boys and men -- a test of our existence in hell.  These are memories and moments that are seared into my simple mind, as are the sounds of frightened mournful moans that still wake me in the night, signifying the end and the beginning for so many bright young lives. 

It is not easy growing up and being witness to the changing times and changing lives of strangers who now become a part of everything you are.  I was a stranger onto my self, walking with nameless strangers, feeling the loneliness they felt, the emptiness that caressed their souls, and the terror that consumed their minds. 

Here I was, a little over a year after having left my nest and entered the military, now I was thousands of miles from home, surrounded by strangers in a strange land.  A mixed sense of exhilaration and trepidation swirled inside my mind.  I was on the cusp of manhood, but not quite there yet.  I was in a place that seemed to stop all time, and where lives and dreams sometimes forever faded into the shadows of that good night.  I was in a place where fate and destiny consumed the hearts and souls of men, and the spirit of uncompleted youths.

There are too many days that I sometimes want to forget.  Days that bring back memories of the day I found myself in Vietnam -- surrounded by other confused, bewildered, raw and untested young American boys and men, surrounded by Vietnamese people, whose faces displayed their decades of torment, pain and grief, and their gait the look of defeat and acceptance, while their eyes portrayed the morbidity of war.  I was in a theatre of war.  A theatre of the absurd.  I was a military journalist in the Mekong Delta.  I was a scared young boy just like so many others around me.  Puzzled as to why I was in the middle of a war, and bewildered by it all. 

Back home in America in the late 1960’s it was a time when young people were asking “Is God Dead”?  In Vietnam young men were not asking that question, because they were living in hell.  It was a time of activism and anti-war protests in America.  In Vietnam I was surrounded by the malaise of bewildered young American men.  I quickly found idealism in Vietnam to be foreign, while cynicism a way of simply making it through the day.  The object of each young man was simply to survive another day and return home, and I was no different than the rest.

Other, more seasoned and tested young American soldiers seemed mesmerized by the surreal environment and atmosphere, and consumed by their compulsion to find answers where none existed, or persist in their attempt to destroy the demons of war they had witnessed or participated in.  For them, going home was not an option, not yet anyway.  For many of them the Tet Offensive, My Lai and other scenes of war were images they could not erase from their shattered minds.  They were on an adrenaline high, searching for another fix to ease the pain inside. 

Given America’s overwhelming superiority over the “simple people” of the North, and yet unable to defeat or overtake the insurgency, America’s young soldiers were dazed, shaken and broken. 

So here I was in Vietnam.  Confused, demoralized and discouraged.  While back home in America, it was the Age of Aquarius -- free love, and Hippies wearing flowers in their hair.

I had become a part of America’s forgotten generation.  I was among the many who felt isolated, abandoned and forsaken.  We were an army of young, inexperienced and unproven boys and men thrown into a hailstorm of political and hostile warfare, without strategy or direction, other than to persevere.  We had no one, only each other, to cling to, and only a living nightmare to share and live.

This was what I walked into on that hot, humid morning in Can Tho, Vietnam, when I reported for my first day as a Military Journalist at the Public Information Office (PIO) as a 19 year-old boy from Texas -- scared and bewildered.  Little did I know how this episode in my life would forever alter my life and my appreciation of those around me.


Submitted: May 29, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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