|What War Does
Author: LexyLove PM
Living during the Vietnam war was hard. Being a soldier in the war was even harder. This is the story of a soldier that encounters death, betrayal, love, and everything in between.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Words: 2,300 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 11-18-11 - id: 2971791
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Look out!" I hear my lieutenant yell at me. I swiftly dodged the explosion close to my left. Sweat trickled down my face and excited me to push on. My lieutenant's shrill, demanding voice faded into a distant whisper as I ran farther into the jungle. I had to keep running. I had a job to fulfill. The lieutenant may be pissed for going AWOL, but he'd soon thank me. I kept running until I was back at base. I confronted a young blond boy. Merely 18 by the looks of it. I took a second to catch my breath and asked him about the information.
They say once you fight in Nam, nothing can scare you. If that was true, I wouldn't be afraid of the dark, fearing for my life for what lurks in its cold blackness called night. If that were true, I would never dread sleep or nightfall. If that were true, I wouldn't be afraid of myself and who I have become.
Heavy breathing, the only sound is my feet snapping branches and the ringing in my ears. I ran as fast as I could. A boom sounds distinctly outside the jungle. I kept sprinting, hurriedly wanting to lift this burden off my shoulders. Gunshots were sounding louder as I approached my lieutenant. Oh god. We're under fire. I don't want to die. I ran to my lieutenant.
"Where the hell were you Salvatore?" My lieutenant barked with intensity and something else... Panic? I brushed it off.
"You'll never guess what I found out." I deepened my voice, wanting to show pride.
"This better be good and quick."
As I look back, I realize that Lieutenant had fear in his voice. He didn't want to have his men die. And he definitely did not want to die either. He feared he'd let some of us down. That he'd lose more than half of our troops to that battle. Over the course of the months we spent together, we became family and enemies all in one. We laughed together, cried together, and died a little together. Every day in that war, a bit of my sanity and humanity disappeared. It's a wonder if I still have anything left.
"Are you sure?" I asked the blond boy. He nodded, feeling guilty. This could either be a trap or the truth. By the look on the boys face, he was expressing the truth. I smiled at him, patted his shoulder, and told him to go home. The boy nodded and started to head back inside base. I called to him. He turned expectantly.
"Could you do me a favor?" I asked with sincere hope. The boy nodded.
"Lieutenant, they're coming through our camp from the West." I spat out quickly. His jaw clenched. I couldn't tell if he was happy or just annoyed at the fact I left and came back with useless information. He tilted his head in a slight nod of acknowledgment. He ordered his troops to continue firing. I stared at him in disbelief. What the hell? I just gave him information that could affect us all.
"What are you gawking at? Get back into your position soldier!" Lieutenant barked. I rolled my eyes but obeyed. What a dumb ass.
I remember what it felt like. The smell, the thrall of vibration throughout my entire body. That memory is forever etched into my brain. No matter what pill I took, no matter what doctor I saw, it would never make it go away. It would haunt me forever. My permanent shadow that would never fade or part. The memory is so vivid, I sometimes think it's a dream. But it's not. It's very much real. The look of real pain on his face, the real sound of terror. The real feeling of regret. I could have saved him. The real feeling of his warm blood on my cool fingers. I remember every detail clearly. The look of fear on his face. He had nothing from the waist down. His guts were spread around where his legs were supposed to be. His disembodied lower half was scattered in pieces. In trees, on the ground, all over this guy. His name was Brady, I could have save him... I could have saved Brady.
Lieutenant strolled over after our little battle. We only injured a few while they killed dozens of our men. Luckily, none of them were from Lieutenant's squad.
"Salvatore, thanks for the piece of gossip."
"It wasn't gossip, Sir."
"Listen, Salvatore, you need to understand others intentions. Obviously, you got this from an untrustworthy source." He glared me into silence. He turned back to stroll somewhere else. He looked over his shoulder.
"By the way, go AWOL again, and I'll kick your ass."
His blood. All over my hands. My tears all over his dead, paralyzed body. I could have saved him. I could have gotten him to a hospital. He could have died the right way. With his family by his side.
"Lieutenant?" I called from outside his tent. I heard faint cussing and light sobbing. I tried again. Lieutenant came out flustered and face wet. That's what made him handsome in my mind. Vulnerable but can still hold it together. He was truly something.
"What Salvatore? More gossip?" I shook my head.
"Then what?" He snapped.
"Lieutenant, would it be possible, if you could do me a favor?" My voice filled with hope. The lieutenant softened a bit. Lieutenant was the type to play favorites. Everyone in our squad was stupid. I'm the only one he trusted and never let down. Until I went AWOL.
The blond boy agreed to do me a favor. I gave him a letter and a package to give to Miss Emily Chambers. The blond boy gave me a sly smile, then I gave him a disgusted look. I told him it wasn't like that, she was just a friend. He didn't believe me and that's fine. I'm not going to waste my time explaining something stupid. Life's too precious.
Maybe I couldn't have saved him. His guts were spilled all over the ground like milk on a table. He wouldn't have lived much longer. Still, I should have tried. Should have made him a lofty promise. A believable one. After all, I owed it to him. I was the one who killed him.
The day Lieutenant got shot was painful. I remember walking with him through the jungle, laughing at one of his stupid jokes. The next minute, a bullet whizzed through the air, slicing Lieutenant's shoulder. He fell to the ground. I let out a girly scream and fell to my knees. Lieutenant lied there, his eyes closed for the longest time. I cried into his chest.
"You can't die. I love you."
But did I really kill him? I thought back and remembered telling Brady to go scope out the east side. In doing so, he stepped on a land mine. That was the first death I witnessed with my eyes. I never saw anything more grotesque. The blood and guts flung everywhere. The trees, the jungle floor, Brady, and myself. The loss of Brady made me acquire a blood lust for the Vietnamese. It had become a passion to kill and to destroy.
After Lieutenant got shot, I sent for a helicopter. He was admitted into a hospital close to the base. He immediately got better and demanded to be released. As soon as he got release, I was by his side at all times. I took care of him. Making sure he didn't need anything, that nothing was hiding in the bushes to come to kill him off. One night, I was in Lieutenant's tent when he cleared his throat. I abruptly looked up.
"Are you okay Lieutenant?"
"I'm fine. And, please, call me Chris." He smiled warmly at me.
War has changed me. In good and bad ways. I've become a different person than I was. War taught me to be strong and fight hard. But it also taught me that everything is not what it seems. The most important thing I learned in war, was to love. Was has adapted me into this strong, defensive person. But it also made me soft around the edges. I carry myself as a heartless person to protect myself. War changed me to be afraid of the dark, the frightening dreams, and myself. I've become my worst nightmare. A person that no longer cares and has an obsession with defeating the enemy, no matter how.
I got a letter back from Emily Chambers. She wrote on her new life with her husband and two kids. She had the nice house with the white picket fence. Don't forget the dog. It made me sick. She wrote that it was nice to hear from me, glad I was still alive. I grew annoyed. Did she think I was unfit for war? I was no different than any of the other men out here. I had passion and patriotism. I enlisted to get away from the stereotypes. I joined the army to find myself. Sure, I had to change some things, but it was worth it. I had found myself.
Lieutenant Chris trusted me with his life. Maybe he thought he wouldn't live through Nam, but he told me everything. From little bits of his childhood memories he could remember or comprehend enough to make sense of them to the day he enlisted. It was on March 13. He did it because he wanted to make something of his life. He never thought he'd be lieutenant, leading many soldiers. He had many fears. Dying, having his men killed, the future, but most of all, spiders. For some reason, he couldn't stand them. He said it was unnatural to be able to walk on eight legs. Lieutenant Chris told me his deepest, darkest secrets. The time he killed a man in a village. He regrets things, but says he doesn't regret this moment, now.
"One thing you need to know about war, Salvatore, is that you have to be quick with a gun and quick with your brain."
That war was the best and worst thing that happened to me. The best thing was meeting Lieutenant Chris. But, that war, it was too brutal. Too violent. As if Americans being there angered the Vietnamese even more. Most of us never understood why we were there, fighting a war that was never ours to fight. Many innocent people dies, many injured. War truly changes a person. It made me into the cold-hearted person I used to be. Now, I struggle through an identity crisis. Who I was before and after the was was clearly not me. I don't know who I am anymore. I just know facts. What happened. What I'm afraid of. What I'm afraid happened. That I only truly felt like I was myself around Lieutenant. It's all just the facts.
One day in particular sticks in my head. The day I told Lieutenant.
"What should I call you?" He said abruptly. I stared at him, confused. I cocked my head and rose my eyebrows.
"I know you're not who you say you are. So who are you? Really?" I sat in silence for the longest time. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in. Even if I opened my eyes, I'd still be in Nam. At least I was in Nam with the one I loved. I took off my helmet, letting my hair hang down. He hadn't caught on yet. Maybe it was just natural for me to have my helmet off, but I tried again. I stared at him and gazed into his eyes. I could tell he loved me back or at least cared about me. I drew in a shaky breath.
"I'm Michelle Salvatore."
After I told Lieutenant Chris who I really was, he admitted to knowing since I enlisted. He confessed to loving me and we immediately made plans for our future. After the war, we'd move in together, get married, maybe have a kid. It's funny how one moment can ruin a plan, though. Months later, Chris and I were on a walk. He had heard something, but trudged on. One second, we were happy, laughing, and holding hands. The next, it got taken away from me. All of it. Chris took 16 shots to his head and 32 shots to his chest that day. I escaped with barely a scrape. I got leave shortly after. My heart hurt so much. Why couldn't it have been me? Why couldn't I have died happy alongside with him?
Present day, I'm living with my husband, two kids, white picket fence, and don't forget the dog. I am forced to wear skirts and be a stay-at-home mom. I don't want this. I wanted a life with Chris. The dreams keep me up still. Fifteen years later and the dreams haunt me. I guess they would be considered nightmares. All I want was to die happy with Chris. My lieutenant. Now, I'm forced into a stereotypical life I tried to runaway from. Life caught up to me. Sometimes, I sneak into the attic, try on my old uniform, and go through Chris' old stuff. I feel him with me sometimes. I miss my Lieutenant. War took him away from me. War did this.