Every morning, I walk past an old hobo in fatigues who sits outside my apartment block. I usually try to find some change for him, even though I know we’re not supposed to. You know sometimes you can’t help but wonder where they’re from? Who they is? But I gotta be honest, I don’t think about it too long. Seriously though. If I weren’t in a rush, and I sat down next to him and asked him what he’s doing on the streets, what would he say?
I don’t think I was too upset when my number came up. We all knew about those Commies in Asia who were plotting with the Soviets to turn the whole world communist, and destroy our way of life. Course I was sad to leave my mom and pop but they were proud of me. I was going to go defend the great United States of America. I would come back a hero.
Of course it didn’t work that way.
I can’t defend stuff I did but… It was frustrating, you know? While it all started out fun, me and the boys all joking around in camp, it became pretty bad. We’d sit there, in the middle of a forest we didn’t know, surrounded by gooks who knew everything. They knew where they were, they could get us so much easier. Those booby traps for example. I’ll always be haunted by the image of one of my buddies impaled suddenly by a spear that just emerged from the earth. Try living with that. It’s not something you forget easy.
There was also a real build up for so long. We were just sat on our asses in camp, doing nothing. Waiting to be allowed to do something. And I guess we were also waiting for a chance to prove ourselves. So when the chance came, we tried to do just that. But we got carried away. No, more than carried away. It wasn’t right. I look back to that day, and I’m scared of myself. Of my buddies. Because we all just went beserk. I don’t wanna remember any of it, and helpfully, thanks to the booze, it’s a bit of a blur. But some things stand out. Like the old man who stepped up to me and greeted me. And I shot him. Point blank. The woman with the baby, who tried to run, but couldn’t outrun bullets. The kid, who tried to hide from me, behind a tree. Their faces, no matter how much of the Jack’s I get down me, are always there.
We all said we were following orders. I told them I thought the old guy had a gun. I still can’t believe we were let off! And we were proud of ourselves. We congratulated each other, remembered the best shots. We laughed at the three fags who’d tried to stop us. I can’t really remember when it hit us that we’d done something wrong. I pray to God that it was before we got home. When we got off the plane, all these hippies started yelling at us. I couldn’t believe it at first! We were defending America! We were defending the way of life they enjoyed! But then I saw the pictures they were holding up. I felt sick. You see, they look different when you’ve been chasing them. When you see a picture like that, it cuts you deep. Particularly when you know it’s your own handiwork.
There were investigations and stuff, and I just kept saying I was just following orders, and besides, I were pretty sure they had guns, grenades, that sorta shit. They coulda brought me down easy if they’d wanted to though. I don’t think they wanted a fuss made.
This stuff sticks though. You get back from fighting guerrillas somewhere, but all anyone can think of are the pictures in the lefty news. People don’t wanna employ you. Your old buddies make excuses. And so there was nothing to take my mind off the memories. My parents couldn’t seem to look at me. I couldn’t get a job. Even if I could, they usually said that my behaviour was ‘odd’. They all wanted me to get some help.
So here I am. On the streets. And no, I really don’t wanna talk anymore. Can I have a buck? Haven’t eaten for a while.