A young lady pulled him aside. “What?” he asked. With swift fingers the blonde wiped a cotton cloth along his forehead. “It will smear the makeup,” she said. He glanced at his watch. “There are more important things now,” he said. The lady pulled his shirt straight, then he managed to escape her grip. He stepped into the small room, took a quick glance at the flag and sat down in front of it. He nodded. The man behind the camera held up three fingers. Then two. Then one. A red light. “My fellow citizens,” he said. “Today is a day this nation – even this world – will never forget.” He swallowed. The sweat was running down his forehead. “From this minute on our nation is at war.”
There are no sirens anymore and no planes anymore. The explosions have stopped and I sit and I wait. “She will come back,” says grandma. “Just you wait and see.” I smile and I nod and I wait. “She’s a smart dog,” says my grandma. “She’ll find her way back.” I nod and I watch the smoke. And I wait until darkness. And I wait the next day. And I wait until night. The house smells of onions and smoke. A hand on my shoulder. “Come to dinner,” says grandma. “And don’t be sad. She’s with your mommy now.”
I always admired my grandfather’s courage. He had fought in the war on what we nowadays think of as the wrong side, but he had never been a believer in the cause. Sometimes a rifle is pressed in your hand and your choice is either to fire and worry about being shot from the front, or not to fire and be sure that you’ll be shot from behind.
He was young when he was drafted, barely 16. Before he left he gave his first kiss and a promise to a girl. She waited five years until the end of the war, surviving on just five or six letters that she kept as treasure.
The war ended but even the defeat was celebrated. Not openly, but in the hearts and eyes of the people. People never wage war, it is politicians that wage war. No soldier that ever stood in the line of a rifle believes that war is heroic, only those divorced from reality, those that sit in tidy offices, those dream of war.
Soldiers came home with thin bodies and bandaged limbs. They hugged their wives and women before they fell onto beds and relived the front in dreams that made them toss and turn and wake up from their own screams.
His girl watched with tears in her eyes while her sister and mother each welcomed their men home. She heard the men scream at night and each scream lodged a stone in her throat. She prayed that the man she had kissed did not have to scream and then she prayed that the man she had kissed was alive enough to scream. Then she prayed for forgiveness for her selfishness. Continue reading
This is a fictionalized account of real events. The link to the real events is at the bottom of this story. I apologize if anyone is offended or hurt by this account – I mean it to cause attention for the issue, not to harm those involved.
It was 1998. A Saturday. 3am. An overdose of caffeine kept me awake. My legs shivered as I stood at the window with my eyes onto the street. I stood only half in the window, my head slanted towards the side. I hoped the darkness of my room would keep me hidden.
It was not the first time that I watched the street. My eyes were on the yellow house with the basement window that was never light during the day but always lit at night.
A car stopped. A badly done white paintjob, the left rear light was broken. Two men got out. Between them staggered a woman. Drunk? Drugged? I never knew. Continue reading
“The war made him first from a boy into a man, then from a man into a broken man.” Grandma always looked sad when she said that.
The three years of war never left him. You might have heard about PTSD, but hearing about it is not the same as experiencing it. Even when I was just a child I knew that something was wrong with grandpa.
When I was very young he scared me. He was nice to me, always nice and friendly, but I could hear him scream behind closed doors and stomping up and down the stairs in the middle of the night.
Whenever my dad came home late after his bowling nights I would tell him that he “smelled like grandpa.” That was grandpa’s way to cope and I think he inherited some of it to dad and dad in turn to me. When you grow up with the knowledge that alcohol solves problems and preserves sanity then it is hard to get around that idea.
Grandpa drank to forget; to forget the memories and flashbacks and nightmares. When Kim Il-Sung attacked the South grandpa’s boots were some of the first Western boots on the ground. They drove the North back; then they got too close to the Chinese border.
I still remember grandpa’s cursing when he spoke about the “millions of Chinese” that crossed the border. Their weapons were inferior, their training too. Still, by sheer mass, they drove the UN forces back.
Grandpa was one of thousands that came home with scenes and images etched in their minds. Some lived a normal life; grandpa barely functioned.
As a teenager I read many books about the war; their authors often served in the same battles as grandpa. Others I asked in person.
Still, no one else ever spoke about nightly attacks on the camps and no one else ever called the Koreans “White Devils.”
Grandpa always cursed about them. Ever since the war he stayed up at night and slept during the day, just because of them. He said that he needed to protect his house and family.
I hated it when we stayed over at my grandparents’ place; there sleeping was impossible for me. If grandpa’s cussing didn’t wake me up it was the baseball bat crashing on floors and furniture, and sometimes even gunshots at imaginary enemies.
I never dared to go down to stop him. I never dared to sit down and talk with him. I feel guilty for that now, but as my dad usually points out it was already much too late – no one could get through to him.
All grandpa talked about were his nightly encounters with the white devils. Dad usually cut him off and told him grandpa that he needed to go again to see his therapist. No matter what time of the day – grandpa always answered the same way: by pouring a large glass of liquor.
Twice grandpa tried to talk to me about the white devils. The first time I must have been around 11. I cried when he told me about the shrine he destroyed and that the Koreans, as revenge, killed most of his squad. That was the only war story he ever told that day – else he only talked about the white devils; that they were trying to harm his family and him.
After that I too began to have nightmares, but only whenever I stayed over at grandpa’s place. I saw small white figures behind the window, white-socked feet behind the door, and a few times even figures standing in or walking through my room.
When I told grandpa about my nightmares he made me sleep with the door open. He patrolled the house, the baseball bat in one and a cold glass in the other hand. His presence made me nervous and it was harder for me to fall asleep – but in return the nightmares ended.
The second time grandpa sat me down was when I was 14. I don’t remember the details of our conversation, but I remember the sickening smell of his breath, the way he slurred words and that he kept talking about the white devils.
He said that I was old enough, that I had to help him protect the family because my father refused to do so.
In retrospect it seems obvious that around that time grandpa’s mental health began to deteriorate rapidly. The shouting got more frequent, often furniture was broken in the morning and several times the neighbors called the police because grandpa’s gunshots broke through their wall. Back then I didn’t notice the change, it was too gradual and I think I wasn’t the only one deluding myself that the deterioration was just ‘temporary’ and that grandpa would return to his previous state.
Then he began to speak of “proving it.” A few times others had stayed awake with grandpa to help him hunt his memory ghosts, but no one ever saw anything.
Grandpa was prescribed new, stronger medication, but he never took it. He usually said that he needed “to be awake and alert.
His screams woke me up. Not cussing and cursing about white devils; screams. Grandma too was on the corridor and followed me downstairs.
“Get off me.”
Grandma and I heard the shot from the stairs; just one. Then silence.
I tried to keep grandma out of the garage, but she was too quick. She too saw the open skull, the fleshy mass splattered on the floor, and the red spots on the ceiling.
The gun was still in his mouth.
At the other end of the room, on the floor, was a camera. It was on, but there was no tape.
Grandpa got a funeral with full honors. We were proud of him that day. Grandma cried, and so did dad. For me it was strange to hear grandpa being called “a hero.”
Now I too call him that, and not just for the war. Now I too have a house and a wife that I want to protect; I feel the urge and drive to protect.
My son is now six. This morning he told me that he can’t sleep. He said that there are figures next to his bed; small figures with dark black eyes that stare at him; he said that otherwise the figures are bright white.
This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.
It didn’t turn the war around, but Agent Orange was still a success. The suffering it created and still creates today is collateral. Suffering is not relevant in the schemes of military commanders.
Agent Orange was a success as it proved that man is more powerful than nature. When the leaves fell and the plants died it became clear that the war against nature had finally been won.
The ‘Rainbow Herbicides’, named after the colorful stripes identifying the barrels, were all targeted against the flora, the plant life. The ‘Agents’ Pink, Green, White, Purple, Blue and, most infamously, Orange, were sprayed by plane over areas of forests, and, less well-known, fields. The expressed purpose was two-fold: to eliminate all cover for enemy combatants, and to destroy the food plants. A starving enemy is a weak enemy is a good enemy. Continue reading