By Terence T. Gorski
December 12, 2013
I was watching a news program at home. The Viet Nam War was on my mind. I was on the short-list for being drafted.
I was still shaken by recently attending funerals of several high school friends who came home from Viet Nam in a box. I was in college and deeply struggling with my position on The War. I wanted to be the hero. I wanted peace. I didn’t want to go to war. I had “skin in the game” as the saying goes.
A disabled Viet Nam Veteran was on the news. The veteran stood briefly at a podium and spoke to a gaggle of reporters at a news conference. The veteran stood on his government-issued prosthetic legs. They were not as good as the current issue, but they were the best available at the time.
This veteran was one of the very few who qualified to receive them. He needed help getting up from his chair.
The veteran was very much the hero. In a strong unshakable voice he put out a message of courage and gratitude for his opportunity to serve God, country, and Viet Nam people. He supported the war even though the war had cost him his legs.
His courage impressed me. I asked my Dad, who was watching the show with me, what he thought.
My Dad was a WW II combat veteran. He watched more than a dozen of his closest friends burn to death in a deluge of flaming gas after a Kamikaze crashed into his transport ship. He watched helplessly as they died before his eyes. There was nothing he could do to save them. He was helpless.
“I guess they were dead already,” my Dad told me in one rare moment of talking about his war. “They were dead, except for the burning and the screaming!” he told me. Then he brushed it all away by saying: “There are some things in life you can’t do anything about.”
“What to you think, Dad?” I asked.
His response burned itself into my mind forever. It wasn’t just the words – it was the pain behind the words. The pain from the deep wounds of his war, WW II, that he carried in his soul. My Dad did not talk about the war very often. He rarely showed his pain. This was one of a very few times that he did. So I listened carefully.
“It’s easy to be a hero for a few minutes at a time when other people are watching and counting on you to be strong. I wonder what he does in the dark of night when he confronts the demons that ripped off his legs?” ~ Thomas S. Gorski, WW II VETERAN, May he rest in peace.
“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald