Now Only A Medal With a RIbbon

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

Looking back at my tour in Vietnam in the late 1960s, I now realize that as American soldiers there, we were perceived like “bowling pins,” to be knock down to win a kewpie doll at a carnival. And when we were knocked down, a Mom or Dad somewhere back home, was given a pretty gilding medal with gold plating, enamel and bronze, attached to a moire silk neck ribbon to wear around their neck or display in a glass-framed box.

NOW ONLY A MEDAL WITH A RIBBON

By Al Garcia

Looking back at my tour in Vietnam as a combat journalist in the late 1060s, I now realize that as American soldiers there, we were perceived like "bowling pins," to be knocked down to win a kewpie dall at a carnival.  And, when we were knocked down, a Mom or Dad somewhere back home, was given a pretty gilding medal with gold, enamel and bronze plating, attached to a moire silk neck ribbon to eear around their neck or display in a glass-framed box.

This was the worth of a man and of a boy.  The people running the game had no clue as to who the man or boy had been.  He was simply a number and “pin” to be replaced.  It was all so clean and antiseptic.  They had no concept of the pain or blood that was being shed, as they sat in gilded chairs, debating not the names or lives of all the young men killed and gone, but debating how many more innocent and naïve young men to deliver to the killing fields, and deciding the design and colors for the next “kewpie doll” to be given to a grieving parent or wife.

This is how I saw our government back home when I was in Vietnam.  Totally oblivious to the reality of war that young men and boys were living.  It was all about the numbers, the casualties, the money, the alliances between leaders, and the shakers and movers in Washington and other capitals in this forsaken part of the world.  It was obscene.  It was callous.  It was cold blooded sanctioned murder, disguised in the red, white and blue of patriotism.

And it was that same red, white and blue – our national flag – that draped each box that was returned.  Inside, the lifeless, dreamless body of what could have been, and a dream no longer reaching for the stars.

I keep thinking of those young men my age - my friends, who had so much life and energy and dreams in them.  And to know, that in the blink of any eye, those friends, with whom I shared jokes with, who I touched during a game of football or basketball, who I walked down the halls at school with, and who I saw with his mom and dad at home down the block every day, are now just a medal with a ribbon in a forgotten glass-enclosed box.

It is obscene.  And it haunts me, and brings tears to my eyes when I think of them.  They were me.  And now, I am them. 


Submitted: June 19, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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