Posts Tagged ‘history’

A friend and I were recently discussing a guy who grew up in our neighborhood.

When Kyle left to serve his country in Vietnam I would have been about five years old. He was eighteen or nineteen. Same age as my youngest daughter who is now in her first year of university.

Kyle was not the only young boy from the neighborhood who went to Southeast Asia during that time.

Of course, I don’t remember when they left. I was too young.

I do have memories of when the American boys came back. Watched the grainy news footage on television with my family. Of planes on the runway depositing our men. No longer youthful.

I remember the POW bracelets that people bought and promised to wear until the service people captured or missing came home. I heard all of the scary stories. I remember that it was a time of protest. I remember who served in Vietnam.

War is horrific and I cannot wrap my head around it. But some wars are worse than others. The Vietnam War would be one of those filed under “worse than others.”

The “lucky” ones came back.

My next door neighbor, Dick, came back home. With a terribly scarred face and a black eye patch covering the socket.

Pretty frightening to see when you are a kid.

Wait, he was only a kid when his life was in such peril. So how freaking frightened was he?

Kyle also made it back home.

But some scars are visible and some are not.

Kyle was a cousin of our friends and he lived across the street on the corner. I would see him around but actually only met him in my teen years. The age difference and all. I didn’t know him well but he seemed like a nice guy. Good humored. Cute in a long, shaggy hair, five o’clock shadow way. Remember a bunch of us at a party and having some good laughs. He was in college and studying theater then. A group of us attended a Shakespeare performance of his at Rhode Island College.

Kyle died, one year ago, at the age of sixty-six. The cause of his death was the Vietnam War. He was exposed to deadly chemicals during his time there. Everyone has heard of Agent Orange. For Kyle, chronic illness and an early death were the results of his exposure to it. I’d say he died from friendly fire.

Just like using a jug of Round-Up. Spray and kill. These chemical weapons (that is what they were) would be dumped on vast areas from planes and defoliation took place. Benefits were two fold. 1) No bad guys can hide in the jungles or forests without the cover of green canopy. 2) Kill all the crops so the bad guys will starve and die.

Obviously, Agent Orange was just one piece of the huge horror show called Vietnam. But its harm continues to reverberate to this day.

The spraying didn’t help. It only hurt. The destroyed crops led to widespread famine and innocent civilians starved to death. The environment was damaged. Our boys came home and began to get sick. Every spray inflicted harm. Illness, genetic damage and death were all a part of its ripple effect. The U.S., Vietnam and other countries who were exposed during the war all suffer the effects.

This could be viewed as old news. But it’s not. It’s continuing news. Because people are still dying. Kyle did.

We sent our fresh faced boys into a jungle war that they had no chance of winning. No one came out of it unscathed. Those who did make it home were changed and scarred, one way or another, for the rest of their lives.

That is our history and our responsibility.

I suppose, in a way, this is a posthumous thank you to Kyle for his sacrifices. Tinged with sorrow for his suffering. It shouldn’t have ended like that. Terribly unfair.

A thank you to all the young boys who left our neighborhoods. Those who made it back home and those who didn’t. Bless them all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I love books. Some more than others.

I remember reading John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” and not being able to put it down once I got past the the first chapter or two.

It was supposedly based on his family’s history.

Loosely or not, I do not know.

But it was a fascinating story. Started on the East Coast. Ended on the West Coast.

There were so many times when I thought, “Oh, this person will marry that person.”

Or, “This is likely to happen.”

No, it didn’t work that way.

Maybe because it was based on a family history. And if we look at our own family history it’s not always all nicely tied up with a bow.

Life just happens.

I suppose that is one of the reasons I liked the book.

It gave me a snapshot of American history.  A family. Immigration. Westward migration.

Also a reality check.

When it comes to families nothing comes neatly packaged.

The girl from the neighboring farm does not always marry the boy from next door.

Lots of times, yes.

But not always.

Life is not predictable.

Sometimes it can be.

Other times it is not.

I loved that Steinbeck kept me guessing and always wanting more with each chapter.

If you haven’t read it I suggest you do. Makes you really think.

 

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