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LAce Posted Monday, July 17th, 2006
Soldier Boys
Nonnie Augustine

Tanner had been exempted from the draft because of his brilliance in mathematics-at a time when computers were changing on a daily basis. We'd had a two year relationship, and then Tanner met another woman and broke up with me. I was young enough to think I would never get over him. Oh, he has a space of his own in my heart, still. But so do others.

Kevin, a Viet Nam vet, arrived in Albuquerque, and his black Irish looks, his intensity; his sex appeal pulled me out of my melancholy for awhile. When I first started seeing him, Kevin rarely mentioned his two years in Viet Nam. He was clearly happy about being out of the army. He was staying in a student rental house with guys he'd grown up with in Newark. Thinking he might try the University of New Mexico, government red tape and his lack of a high school diploma stalled his plans. Kevin said that as soon as he turned eighteen, he'd dropped out of high school and joined the army. When I asked him why, he said because that's what the men in his family did when their country needed them. Then he lit a joint.

Our relationship wasn't working out. My heart wasn't in it and Kevin sensed this. He became depressed and restless and then I didn't hear from him for a week. One of his friends, an ex-marine, told me Kevin's heroin addiction, the one he had picked up in Nam, had swallowed him whole again. One night Kevin showed up at my door. I didn't ask him in because he wasn't Kevin; he was a ghost.

Ten years later, Paul, blond, tall, beautiful Paul, came into my life. At first he told me he'd bought his sleek sailboat and his snazzy SUV with money he'd inherited. Later he confessed that his wife had paid him to get out of her life. Paul had been in Viet Nam. A crack shot, his superiors made him a sniper. As he told me about it his eyes went dead. They frightened me.

Truth was, I was looking for a man to start a family with, and this good-looking guy who lived on a sail-boat, worked minimum wage jobs, and whose soul was so badly damaged from all the killing he'd done, did not strike me as a good choice to be the father of my children. He was another ghost.

My friend John and I are middle-aged baby boomers and we've each been through our share of hurdles. When John left for Nam he was a boy who'd had a few beers. In Viet Nam he became a heroin addict, an alcoholic, a man blitzed on drugs wherever and whenever possible. He'd been a medic, and stoned was the best way to cope with caring for broken, brutalized soldiers fighting a non-war. Today he is working in a methadone clinic. Clean himself for twenty years, he understands the men he helps.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by jocelyn johnson on Tuesday, July 18th, 2006 at 11:54 AM
It is easy to overlook the fact that just because the "boys come home" doesn't mean they are whole and healthy. The same is true of those involved currently in "torture." Even if someone doesn't sustain lasting marks, their life may be forever changed, very possibly diminished...and I mean this for the soldiers inflicting the pain,in the line of duty, as well as detainees....and then, on and on, to the loved ones and potential loved ones this peice addresses.

Posted by Donia Carey on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006 at 7:55 AM
Beautifully written. An engaging story, and at the same time a stark commentary on war and its aftermath.

Posted by Sharon Hurlbut on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006 at 11:50 AM
How sad to think of all the 'ghost' men and women our country is currently producing. There must be a better way.

Posted by Lee Fuller on Thursday, July 20th, 2006 at 8:35 AM
Bonnie Nonnie, that is a bonnie story. Loved it.

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