Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Girl I Met On Christmas Day 1968- DaNang

Tues. 26, January 2010

My first time to Vietnam I landed in Da Nang early on Christmas morning
1968 at about 2-3am. Later, I would fly north to Dong Ha, and hitch a ride
to Quang Tri to join the 3rd Marines.

As we had time to spare we were taken into a militarized part of Da Nang.
We were warned to be careful of begging children, and that they could be
thieves and may use razor blades to cut our pockets. We soon came upon a
group of 20-30 such children.. I had some sweets and money to give. Most
were under 10...small.

I gave sweets, mostly, whilst I looked the crowd over for thieves. But, they
just seemed like nice kids. It felt good to meet, chat, joke and to give to these
children. But, I felt bad that they were begging. Why? I thought that we were
here to help them? And, why is this happening on Christmas day? And why
aren't we (the military) feeding them? My first awakening that things weren't

Some children had missing limbs. Some had scars, and some had shrapnel
wounds. I felt bad; very bad. Most, most were okay. But, this is what this hard
and tough marine, so eager for combat saw on his first day in VietNam. My only
thoughts were of killing people, and winning medals for heroism. I had not
thought of, nor imagined that I would be seeing child victims of war...our war.

I was naive and innocent. War destroys your innocence first. And yet, these
children were friendly, chatting and smiling. Save one.

I felt someone's presence at the back of the group...a couple or more steps behind
the if she was separate from the group. I could feel that she was looking
at me, and when I looked at her, I saw a lovely girl of between 11-13. She was
looking into my eyes, softly, and for a bit, then she lowered (bowed) her head.
But, by then she had torn my heart out.

She did not hold her hand out like the others. I think that she felt different...not
as young or cute as the smaller ones? And, marred. I saw pain and hurt in her,
and I felt pain, hurt and agony for her in my heart and soul.

She raised her head again and looked into my eyes for a few moments. I had
been frozen in place. But, as she lowered her head again I was wading through
the middle of the group of children until I stood in front of her.

She lifted her head, and we looked at each other for a long moment. I nodded to
her and she to me. Then, I took her right hand (shy) and put all the money I could
get (mostly, if not all coins) into her hand quietly, and covered it with
hide from the other children. I made gestures and nods to that effect. She understood
and nodded. I understood, then, how cruel war is.

Then, we looked at (and into) each other for a long, long moment. It was a very
poignant and meaningful moment in time and space that is forever etched across,
and in my mind, heart and soul. Though, she was alone and apart from the group...
I came to her only. And, I have often wondered why she was looking at me.

You see, this beautiful Vietnamese girl had no right eye, nor even a patch.
She only had basic treatment...she did not wear an American uniform! She
may not have felt beautiful, but she truly was. Her eye was so beautiful and was her soul was and is. (Da Nang had no eye hospital until 1998).

She may have appreciated what little I gave her (I don't remember how much I
had or gave), but it felt completely inadequate to me. I felt bad that my $ bills 
were in my boots (to protect from child and other thieves that I had been warned
about). And, I felt worse when I thought about how much money I spent getting
drunk in Okinawa, and to see a prostitute for my first time with a woman just days
before. I didn't care if I had any money left after seeing her.

She took my heart and soul and humanized me in an instant. As we looked into
each other she melted my hardness, toughness and brought tears to my eyes, and
agony to my heart and soul. Without speaking a word she showed me what war is
and does to people, especially children. And, I would never, ever be the same again.

I felt awful leaving her. I would have food, water, and medical care if wounded.
But she and the others? It hit me like a ton of bricks that our (America's) war did
this to her. She may have been marred, but I saw the whole her-a beautiful human
being and soul. She has been with me ever since, and I have wept many, many times
whenever I have thought of her.

I believe that our meeting was not by chance, nor a coincidence, and I have always
wondered what became of her. And, I have never forgotten her. And, I weep for
her before, and on Christmas day, and after.

War is horrible and criminal. It makes super profits ''for the few'' at the expense
of ones like her and I.

But, she is 'The Girl I Met On Christmas Day 1968- Da Nang.'

It is those things-what happens to children, old people, and (especially
young girls and women), homes, families, villes, cultures, societies, and
also, to other Marines blown to bits, maimed, traumatized for a medal that
hurts and causes pain most every day of my life.

Those of us who survived had to fight our own government as veterans for
recognition that their wounds/conditions merited treatment. But,the children
of Vietnam Afghanistan, Iraq (or Fallujah, where the U. S. waged chemical
warfare against the civilian population, and now their children have a higher
rate of congenital birth anomalies that Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped),
or any country America wages war upon...the children have to fend for theirselves.

War is a criminal enterprise! Or, as Major-General Smedley D. Butler said,
'War is a Racket'.

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