Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beautiful Young Men I

I have been sitting here, staring at you, waiting for you to tell me what to say. You’re going to make me tell a story aren’t you? I use the phrase “a story” rather than “the story” because any tale I tell will be made from your memories, your musings, and my questions about my part in all of this.
My grandfather starts my journey with his diary, buried in the Philippines, discovered later, finally transcribed by me.
Forty-one of you served in the Philippines. You were at the first American surrender. You marched in the Bataan Death March. Some of you made it to a POW Camp. Some of you made it to a Hell Ship. Some of you almost made it home; one of you did.
I know all of you men; you appear on a roster completed by my grandfather in 1946. I know how far you made it in your journey. I know some of your stories from journals and documents collected at the end of World War II.
After 1942 you got a respite, you Beautiful Young Men. But, then from 1945 through 1952 your numbers decreased in Korea – the proxy war.
And then Vietnam; the first American Advisors were there in 1958, less than a thousand. My father was one.
The word “escalate” means to become more intense or serious; those were the looks that passed between my parents in the mid-1960s as U.S. involvement increased.
The deaths started happening – random, senseless, from a sniper or helicopter crash, a grenade.
I know you too, not as well because I don’t have your diaries or documents, but I know your sons and daughters, and I am one of you.

1 comment:

  1. Scottie,

    What a deep and empathic portrayal you have painted for us here.

    Your essay brought me to tears...

    Such a waste - the lives of these beautiful young men.