EXCERPT FROM “HEIRS OF HONOR” – ‘BURIAL GROUND’


 

 

“…We moved through the jungle, struggling to be as silent as shadows.  Unexpectedly, we came upon a clearing and froze before trying to cross.  Why the jungle stopped growing was a mystery to all of us.  Even the normal sounds were absent; no birds, no insects, no rustling of twigs, just silence, still and oppressive.  The atmosphere was uncomfortable and vaguely familiar.  The slightest hint of death wafted through the air.  Someone whispered ‘burial grounds’.   Nodding in unison, we remembered the eerie adventures of exploring neighborhood cemeteries, as children.  Our eyes darted furtively, the hair on our necks needed rubbing.  As our hands massaged away our tingles, every one of us noticed, every other one of us, busy doing the same thing.  A group snort of self-conscious embarrassment huffed away the quiet….”

“…Aware we were walking into something unusual, we cat walked and tip toed, while entering the clearing.  We didn’t wish to intrude, wanting to respect the privacy of the dead.  A silence hung over the graves and violating it felt sacrilegious.  The occupants’ resentment of our intrusion seemed palpable to the air.  The place felt menacing and aware.  As if the agony once experienced by the dead, remained.  The place blocked out the world.  We felt dread strong enough to make us clutch our weapons tighter….”

“…Hidden away in the highlands, forgotten by the world, a troop of soldiers lie buried.  Whoever they were doesn’t matter, now.  Their last battle was fought, long ago.  They are at peace.  They do not wish to be disturbed.  Their grave markers have rotted into implied forms, leaving only the slightest trace of having ever been.  Even the grave mounds have flattened out.  We stood on the same ground where those nameless men gave their all, and realized we were following in their footsteps.  Here we were, enthusiastically taking our turn to fight and die.  We were looking at our own future, and knew it.  How many years would pass before some future invader would stumble upon American graves?  What would he think?  Would he wonder who we were?  Would we have died well, in his opinion?  Would it matter?  That was the first time I realized Vietnam was a land of unending war.  A thousand years of invasions had flooded this land with blood.  Nameless thousands of soldiers had died, fighting countless battles here.  No one remembered and nothing was accomplished, the soldiers kept on coming, and kept on dying….”

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