Tomorrow Never Came

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

There is a human instinctual sense of survival, self-preservation, a lust for life. And, then, there is the very real phenomenon called “survivor’s guilt.” I believe that we have all experienced a variance of this phenomenon. It is inherent in our DNA. We are relatively sensitive and sympathetic beings. We relate and associate ourselves with family, friends, and at times even with total strangers. Sometimes to the extreme, without intent or design.

TOMORROW NEVER CAME

By Al Garcia

There is a human instinctual sense of survival, self-preservation, a lust for life.  And, then, there is the very real phenomenon called “survivor’s guilt.”  I believe that we have all experienced a variance of this phenomenon.  It is inherent in our DNA.  We are relatively sensitive and sympathetic beings.  We relate and associate ourselves with family, friends, and at times even with total strangers.  Sometimes to the extreme, without intent or design.

The Vietnam war was a traumatic, physical and emotional experience for many who served.  For those of us who went to Vietnam, the war tested our moral and ethical fiber.  It also revealed in some, their hidden fears, their weaknesses, their uncertainties.  And for others, it brought out their animalistic and dormant beast that savored the adrenaline high of the hunt and of the kill.  The war was a smorgasbord of evils, vices, sins, corruptions, wickedness and depravities, like all wars.   There was something for the boy or the man.  The war did not discriminate.  The war’s objective was to taint and pervert the human heart, and to wound and ravage the human soul.  And in the end, it accomplished both aims and more.

I was not prepared for what I saw, and heard, or ignored, each day that I was there.  I was not prepared for the daily dose of seeing and hearing human suffering and human sorrow and misery.  It was a world I had never known, and one I never knew existed.  Not in my time, and not in my safe and secure little world.  Vietnam was beyond my comprehension.  But I wanted to understand and feel what my friends had been through.  I wanted to experience, with my own eyes, and my own mind and body, what they had seen, and felt, and endured.

Two of my friends had been killed.  They were gone.  They were my age, from around the block where I lived, and where I played and went to school.  One had been at my house.  We had told jokes, and even gone away on a church retreat with other friends of ours from the neighborhood.  I was in Vietnam and I wanted to find out how it felt to feel the fear, to hear the in-coming, to sense the threat to life and limb.  I needed simply to understand why.  And as a combat journalist, I made sure I found myself in places and situations where I could find out for myself.

My friends were both highly intelligent, athletic, had great personalities and were good looking, with a future that assured them success in whatever they decided to do.  And they had dreams about that future, and about their lives.  I, on the other hand, was just the opposite.  I was average to middling in school, not athletic nor inclined that way, a bit introverted, and certainly not good looking.  As for my future, I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do, or what I could do or become.  I was just an average Joe.  While, on the other hand, my two friends possessed everything I would have wanted in the perfect me.

It was what confused me.  It was what I just couldn’t understand.  They had everything I didn’t, and yet, I was here, and they were not.  And I wanted to know why.

My quest, if you’d like to call it that, did not answer the questions I had, nor did it explain the feelings and emotions that I had.  All the war did was confuse me even more.  For what I saw and what I experienced as a military journalist in Vietnam was the unvarnished and unadulterated truth of what was going on.  And there was nothing I could do or that I could say.   And I was not the only one who saw and felt the way I did.  Everywhere I went, the majority of the boys and men I spoke to echoed the same sentiment and observation.  This was not a war.  It was a shooting gallery and we were the sitting ducks, all lined up in a row.  Yes, we were shooting back and striking back, but without any resolve or purpose other than to play the game.

The hollow words I heard coming from our leaders was constant and loud.  “We must not let our soldiers die in vain.”  That was the rallying cry of our politicians and strategists, sitting in boardrooms, agencies and bureaus on Capitol Hill, and even the White House.  In Vietnam, I was hearing a different refrain coming from the actual men who were fighting and dying in muddied fields or desolate outposts far from the rose-colored halls of democracy.  The same refrain could be heard from other young men, as they cried out in agony and in pain for their mothers, their fathers, their very lives.  

The refrain I heard loud and clear was: “But you are letting us die in vain.”  My friends had died here.  And all I had learned in my travels throughout the Mekong Delta was that our soldiers felt like pawns in a game being played with their lives.  That was all I learned as a combat journalist in Vietnam, that I was just a pawn like all the rest that had come before me and those that would come after I left.

And for my friends who didn’t come home, their tomorrow never came.  They never got the chance to play the game of life that they were looking forward to.

And even now, after so many years have passed, I still feel the guilt and the shame of what happened to my friends, although there was nothing I could have done.  

What a waste of life it was.  What a waste of all the tomorrows that never came.  A survivor’s guilt never ends. 


Submitted: June 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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