Author Topic: That Old Guy...  (Read 650 times)

Offline St. George

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That Old Guy...
« on: November 10, 2021, 02:05:22 PM »
Every neighborhood has one or two - sometimes, they're even in the family - those quiet 'old guys' in their late 60's or older, who don't talk much, and are always watching...

They're easy to dismiss - to think of as 'invisible' - because they're not people important enough to talk to or to get to know - they're just 'old guys'.

Some are bald, some have faded tattoos that are so far gone that it's close to impossible to make out the original design or the letters, and some have white scars or puckered ones - but they got those at work or in a car accident, you figure, so they're nothing to remark upon, and besides - why would you want to?
About the only thing they have in common are those American flag pins and caps that they wear - and what's up with those, anyway - they're all right for the Fourth  of July, but all year long?  Geez, Grandpa - get a grip...

I'll tell you about those guys, and if you open your jaded young eyes and really 'look' - you'll get a glimpse of their past, from a time well before they were ever called 'Dad' or 'Grandpa' or 'Uncle Jack' or whatever the name is of the guy down the block with the neatly cared for yard, who's got those unreadable tats.

In his house, there's a picture album his Mom saved, that's full of photos taken in a too-bright Asian sun - taken of young men - boys, really - in tropical uniforms, laden with equipment and weapons about to board a Huey, and there he is - seated in the rear, behind the M60 machinegun in a nearby chopper - one of the little ones they used to call a 'Loach'.

He's got a handlebar mustache and a painted helmet, and he looks like he's about twenty, but somehow about fifty, too - but that has to be a trick of the light - and though he's smiling, he's smiling with his mouth and not his eyes - and I wonder if his Mom caught that?

 (You know his Grandpa and his Dad and uncles did - that same smile's seen in the curled photos of them - taken at Iwo and Anzio and close to the Inchon - but they never mentioned it to Mom - they didn't want to worry her, and besides, they were too worried themselves, though they hid it well.)

In another, he's loading rockets - and though you can't see it, they're the 2.75" Folding Fin Aerial Rockets loaded with flechettes - and in another, he's eating a C-Ration, and actually smiling and you know Mom likes that one...

In a close-up, you can see the tattoo, and it looks new - the letters spell out 'Headhunters', and every time he hears helicopter blades, he looks up and smiles, and at night, he doesn't sleep.

The one with those puckered scars?

Ever notice that he never takes his shirt off - even mowing the yard in August?

He never takes it off with the lights on, either, because he's afraid he'll upset his wife - the High School sweetheart who'd waited for him to just come home, and didn't care about anything or anybody else but him - just that he was alive.

He damned near wasn't, when that 'friendly' napalm strike on his position almost fried him, but helped save him, while he helped save his men before he collapsed on top of his dead radioman, trying to protect him.

He spent a year at Camp Zama recuperating from some of the worst of the burns, and thank God for his helmet - it saved his ears, but the damage was on other parts, and it took a lot of time in the VA to make those parts more 'user-friendly', but she married him almost right off the plane, and they've got three kids - and she 'knows' what he looks like - her fingertips can tell.

He came home with a Purple Heart - 'and' a Silver Star - and when he went to a unit reunion after twenty years, everyone stood up and applauded - then saluted...

The bald guy?

He's got bad feet, too.

Got 'em serving in the Delta with the Ninth Infantry and they'll hurt the rest of his life, but he went bald early because of Agent Orange, and for years and years, the VA disavowed any connection to the symptoms, so he never had any kids - just didn't want to take the chance.

Helluva nice guy - a Scoutmaster for a long time, until he couldn't take the hiking, and he's 'not' looking forward to a wheelchair at all.

And that really polite guy - the one with the big, faded purple splotches that 'look' like they're tats, but are unreadable now - but the one whose clothes look like the creases have creases, and whose place looks like it's always ready for the 'Garden Society' reporter to stop by?

A Jarhead - pure and simple - used to be what they once called a 'juvenile delinquent' before a judge gave him a choice - 'Marines or Jail', so he chose the Corps and they sent him to Hue City, where he found out that VC mortarmen could walk those 60mms right down streets 'and' turn corners, too, and where his LT, Sergeant and Corporal were killed outright - leaving 'his' worthless JD ass to run the remaining Platoon and keep them from being killed.

Took the Navy docs the best part of a day to get the metal out of him, before he went AWOL to get back to his men, still leaking...

They offered him a Direct Commission, but he refused - instead, he retired out as a Sergeant Major - a 'Lifer' - three decades and a Navy Cross later.

There'll be more 'Old Guys' from these dismal wars in the sand and mountains - some 'Old Gals', too - old far before their time, and saddled with memories their forebears never wished upon them.

God, but I wish there weren't, but that's the nature of the life and the price paid, and paid willingly.

So this Veteran's Day - before you hit the retail extravaganza it's become - give some thought as to what it means to truly be 'Veteran's Day', and understand that it wasn't to be 'Thanked For Your Service' or for the free pie at Village Inn - they did it for 'you' - and for the flag and the greater sense of what it means to be an American.

My very best to you all...



"It Wasn't Cowboys and Ponies - It Was Horses and Men.
It Wasn't Schoolboys and Ladies - It Was Cowtowns and Sin..."

Offline KenH

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Re: That Old Guy...
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2021, 10:31:07 AM »
Well written post, and something we'd all do good to remember and pay respects.


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