"Did you ever kill anyone? In Vietnam?" asked the grandson. The old man stopped where he was on the sidewalk as the peaceful smile that once lit his wrinkled face diminished. The boy halted alongside his grandfather, suddenly feeling a bit guilty for asking such a personal question about his grandfather's past. The aged man sighed heavily, and then slowly started forward again. "…yes, grandson… many."

They walked without a word. Only the patter of their rubber soles on the pavement and the bustle of the streets filled the air. The seconds became minutes, until finally the son couldn't hold in his curiosity any longer. "What was the war like?"

"Hell, no less." Hearing strength in his grandfather's voice again, a swell of interest filled his mind. He no longer felt as if he were becoming a nuisance. "Dad said you won some medals, what were they for?"

"Won?" snapped the old man. "War isn't like your videogames, boy! No one wins medals."

Tense silence fell on the two as they walked. The grandson glanced from time to time at his grandfather, who kept his eyes straight ahead. When the old man broke the silence, the youth sighed with relief. "A silver star and purple heart."

"What are they? What do they mean?"

"They're given to me who were ordered to do a whole lot of sinnin'…they're unwanted reminders, to be truthful," the balding man replied.

The kid didn't understand what exactly his grandfather met by this. He didn't catch that the old man didn't want to talk about the past, but wanted rather to enjoy the warmth of the beautiful day with his son's son. "How'd you get them?"

"I did what I had to," the grandfather explained, looking away.

"What? What'd you do?"

The old man shook his head. "Your mother wouldn't want me fillin' your ears with stories of war."

The boy didn't argue at first. He kept his head down as he pondered how exactly to get his grandfather to spill the beans. When he felt that enough time had passed, he insisted on hearing the story again.

"… what happened?"

The grandpa's face was strained as he shook his head. "No, son. You don't want t' hear of the things I've done. You won't look at me the same."

"Grandpa, what happened."

He grunted, muttered something, then took a moment before speaking. "…we were flown in by a few helicopters, right into a little clearin' surrounded by that ungodly jungle. I remember it rained all day, hard enough to fill your boots in a minute. We weren't really sure what we were supposed to do, but we knew somethin' was up 'cause we ain't ever flown in choppers before. I guessed we were going to push through a section of jungle, just like we did months before. We weren't told much at base, and I can see why now.

"I was trying not to fall asleep, just had my eyes shut and head restin' 'gainst the seat when all the shoutin' started. I'll tell you right now, there ain't nothin' worse than being shot at, especially when you don't know where them devils are."

The grandson looked at his grandfather nervously, having never seen him so upset. The grandpa continued speaking as they walked. "They had 'em shoulder rockets, and hit one of the choppers. I could see the trail of smoke it left behind comin' right from the place we was tryin' to land at. It was smokin' and flamin' and spinnin'.

"…I watched men fall to their death, son. They jumped righ' out and fell, on fire all the way down. The machine, it hit that ground in a fireball, was nothin' but a flamin' heap of metal. I couldn't pay it all too much attention 'cause there were bullets hittin' the bottom of my own helicopter as we came to the down. I wasn't much of a prayin' man in those years, but just then, I was prayin' up a storm. I couldn't believe that damn pilot was still gonna take us down to them after all. Once I saw the tree tops pass by, that's when I started shakin' real bad. I know it may sound odd, but I was too scared to cry, but I felt those tears inside… I still do at times… when I'm sleepin'."

The son and grandfather came to a park bench facing out towards the lake. The mid afternoon sun was shining bright on the water. They sat down next to each other. It was plain to see that the old man was suffering from what he was telling.

"Grandpa," said the grandson, feeling terrible that he wasn't able to foresee the harm of his questioning. "You don't have to tell me anymore. I don't want you to remember anymore. Let's go home, and eat some of grandma's pie, can we?"

"…them jungle devils shot at us again," the old man kept speaking as he stared out over the water. "And the rocket almost got the other one righ' in the side, but the pilot saw it comin' and turned away. That flyin' machine just kept goin' up though, 'cause that he must've known that he was gonna die if he kept goin'. I thought we were gonna leave too, but it didn't take too long to realize that we weren't.

"When we was trainin' in Tennessee, they said that if we hesitated even a bit when jumpin' outa them helicopters, we were gonna get shot" the old man shook his head. "… they wasn't lyin'. Some of the guys in front jumped out before the rungs hit the ground. They must've guessed that if they'd jumped before we was supposed to, they'd be fine… they weren't. Them devils killed them before they even felt the ground under their boots.

"When that helicopter hit the ground so hard, I thought I might have broken my back. There was bullets whizzin' by my ears and sparkin' all over the place. The men closest to the door was shootin' their guns, but then just fell out dead on the ground. I was paralyzed where I was. Then, I felt a hand on my back and it shoved me out."

The old man's lower lip began to tremble then, and tears came to his eyes. It seemed that he couldn't hear his grandson's pleads for him to stop. He drew in a shuddered breath and shook his head.

"I know we was all prayin', but I… I guess I was prayin' the loudest… maybe God couldn't hear the others over the gunfire, I don't know."

Tears came to the boys eyes as well. He could believe what suffering he'd just brought onto his grandfather. His slender fingers wrapped around the grandfathers large knuckles, which rested on his leg. Both of their hands were shaking.

"I hit the ground all sprawled out with my gun under me. The man who pushed me out was layin' on top and I could feel his blo–," the grandfather's voice broke. He took another deep breath, and closed his eyes for a moment before continuing. "I could feel his hot blood soaking into the back of my fatigues."

The two sat silently on the stone park bench, listening to the traffic hum behind them. The boy wouldn't let himself cry, in fear that it would in turn have his grandfather do the same. So he stared at the lapping water as it rhythmically hugged the water weeds and cattails growing on the bank, hoping his grandfather would just end the story right then.

"I wanted to get right back onto that helicopter, but by the time I realize what was going on it was already climbin' back into the air. Even over its wind I could hear the jungle devils yellin' and hollerin' and shootin' at the chopper over me. They stepped out of the trees… tryin' to get a better shot…"

The grandfather paused, wiping sweat from his brow. He took another deep breath as he struggled to hold back the tears. The grandson couldn't hold his own back any longer as they fell from his cheeks.

"…there were so many… so many... and… I shot… I wiggled my gun out beneath me and put the first bullet into the chamber, and… and just… just kept firin'… kept shootin' the bullets right outa that chain. I didn't want to… I had to 'cause if I didn't, I… would've died right there... right with the rest of 'em."

The old man breathed slowly, trying to control his emotions as the young man wiped his face on his shirt sleeve and sniffled. A jogger passed by, and they heard the music from her headphones.

"They was shooting at me… and that damn machine gun jammed, mud must've gotten into it. I couldn't get it open, was pullin' on it so hard my fingers started bleeding. I could hear them comin' through the grass and mud… must've thought they killed me, but…"

He looked up with his eyes shut and cleared his throat. "My pistol didn't have much to shoot… I tried to get another magazine in the damn thing, but I got mud all over 'em... So, I threw the grenades… pulled them off of my vest and threw them righ' at them."

The grandson slid closer to his grandfather and wrapped his arms around him. The old man smiled weakly as he moved his own arm around his grandson.

"That pilot came back… saw the whole thing from the sky… my big 'o iron angle," the old man continued as he played with the boy's hair. "He told the general when I was gettin' stitched up. I didn't feel it then, but them devils put a few holes in me…" The old man laughed softly in disgust. The young boy looked at his grandfather, failing to find any such hilarity. "When they pinned them medals on me, they told me I was a one hell of a soldier, a real war hero for killin' all those men by myself… earned me a plane ride home."

They sat together, each swatting away a bug every now and then. The sun dipped a little lower into the horizon as the summer's heat began to waver. Then, the grandfather gestured towards the left with his hand. The boy nodded, understanding that the aged man wished to return home. They stood up, stretched, and began the long walk back.

"Grandpa," said the boy, who walked a little closer to his grandfather now than he did earlier.

"Yes, grandson?"

"I'm sorry."

The old man grins slightly, "It's alright. It's alright. I didn't expect you to understand, you're too young to know. Can you promise me something?"

The boy nods, but his guilt is still unresolved.

"Promise me that you'll never forget what I've told you, and keep it a secret."

The young man nodded. He would keep his mouth shut tight… he owed his grandfather at least that much. "Yes sir."

The aged man nods, and rubs the youngster's hair again. "Please, just remember one thing; war is not glorious, and there ain't nothing humble about combat."

"Yes sir."

"Good boy."