They assigned him to Vietnam. He knew it meant he was dead. He hadn’t applied, hadn’t even asked how you apply, they’d just handed him his fate. Four days out of basic, here he carried his lunch toward a table in the enlisted mess, the steamy odor of reconstituted mashed potatoes rising toward his face, and his legs felt like rubber as he stepped toward a future scattered with booby traps and land mines…There was no sense sitting here, spooning up his lunch off a partitioned tray. He should be saving his life, getting out of this mess hall, disappearing maybe in some big town where they had dirty movies that never close.
Tree Of Smoke by Denis Johnson
We as a nation have now been waging a war against terror in Afghanistan for twelve very long years. My nephew Sebastian, who will be twelve in December has never known an America not at war, and yet his life remains completely untouched by it all.
My own father fought in Vietnam. My clearest and only memory of my father is of him up in the attic with a map of Vietnam covering the floor with tiny soldiers and tanks playing war games. Well, there are other memories but we won’t talk about them. So while my father was able to survive bodily from Vietnam, the war took his mind and soul.
“I’m caught up in the world like smoke blown everywhere. The dragons have defeated me, they’ve driven me so far into the world I can’t get back to the silence” —Denis Johnson
I’m sure there were many times my father felt like that…devoured by dragons.
Is war a necessary evil? War to bring peace? In a world that spawned Stalin’s purges and Hitler’s gas chambers and the current militias in the Congo gang raping young girls while making their fathers watch, the answer is unarguably yes, countries with the means must wage war to stop atrocities on the earth.
So it leaves me on my knees praying The Lord makes me a dragon slayer and that the men and women fighting in Afghanistan are able to get back to the silence.