Learning To Love You More




Assignment #59
Interview someone who has experienced war.

Judith Jordan
Oakland, California USA



Osiris was a medic in the 1st Calvary Division, stationed in the Mekong Delta from 1965 to 1967.
Me: "I've wanted to ask you about your past."
Osiris: "I can sum it up in terms succinct and concise: my birth was eventful; my life, to this point, has been eventful; and my death, I expect, will be eventful."
Me: "Thank you. My father was a tank commander in the 1st Infantry. He was blown off the top of the tank when they went over a mine."
Osiris: "Is he on disability?"
Me: "Fifty percent."
Osiris: "Tell him this: tell him you talked to another one who made it out alive. Me, I was shot in the gut by an AK-47, point blank. I have no spleen. I'm on 100% disability. They took my pension away: thirty-one hundred dollars a month. They hate us. We were just pawns in their game."
Me: "Would you tell me about being there?"
Osiris: "It messes with a man's head. Everything else just disappears. Sometimes, it's all I can remember: sixty-five through sixty-seven, I was in the Mekong. Came in at Ia Drang with the 1st Cav."
Me: "Helicopters?"
Osiris: "Helicopters. We were trained to drop into the battlefield and run for the wounded. My job was to do triage under fire. I just got out, ran, and stuck my arms...I got so much blood on me that, when I wiped my hands on my pants, by the end of the day they got so stiff it was like they were starched.
These guys tell me that they were veterans, and then I start a conversation with them, and they can't keep it up for more than a minute. Fuck them. Ask them where they enlisted - I signed up at the Gibson Recruitment Center - or where they trained - I was at Camp Breckenridge. They got no respect for the dead."
Me: "My dad tells me he can't stand it when people talk about '67 as "The Summer of Love" when all his buddies were getting killed."
Osiris: "Kids! All of 'em. I came back on this barge, this freighter, and there were fifty bodies down in the hold. This priest was walking on the decks and he asks me, 'You know what they got below?' I says yeah. 'You want to give a visit?' I go down there with him and there's these lines and lines of coffins, all in rows. 'You have to be very quiet,' the priest said. 'You mustn't disturb their rest.' Not one of them was more than twenty-two years old. 'You can open up a lid, if you want,' he says. 'Pay your respects.' I do. They look okay. I was trained as a medic, though, so I could see all the work they'd done to patch them up. They had these three-inch panes of glass over them, to keep them protected. Some of them you couldn't open, because the bodies were too...
It was population control. We figured it out, later. Kids were going crazy those days: civil disobedience, protests, riots. People burned down seven city blocks, and they gave them a choice - prison, or the military. Kids are thinking, 'I wanna be free.' They see this cage, and they see a gun in front of them. They never been in a war. They have no conception of it. So they sign up, they get thrown in uniform. Chances are nil they get out of there alive. Chances are nil they get out of there without getting disabled. And if you're black..."
Me: "You can bet on it."
Osiris: "You can bet your hide you're gonna get the worst of it. Those people in their high-class suits sit there and say, 'Not my son. Not my son gonna get shot and killed. He'll go into some office behind the lines and come out of there just fine. You! You go in there, into the jungle.'
They treated us no better than animals. Talking beasts with nothing better to do than die. I'm fine with that, though. I know I'm one eloquent beast while I'm here, and, when I'm gone, my work will carry on."