Acid Heroes

November 12, 2015

A couple of war stories for Memorial Day



Both of my uncle’s (my father’s brothers) saw some of the worst fighting in the D-Day invasion during World War II (the Good War).  What they saw was so horrific, their minds both snapped.  After the war, one of my uncles, on a sudden impulse, left his home and took off hitch-hiking from New Jersey all the way to Washington state, with nothing but the shirt on his back.  When they asked him why he did this he said:  “Because THEY were out to get me!!”  He never specified exactly who “they” were.  They locked him up in a local mental asylum in Washington.  And he lived quietly there for the next 30 years.

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Another war story:  In 1969 my 18-year-old-cousin (my uncle’s son) suddenly showed up at our house out of the blue, and started living in one of our spare bedrooms.  It turned out he had been drafted and was going through boot camp.  But he couldn’t take it and went AWOL before they shipped him off to Vietnam.   So he was hiding out at our house and trying to figure out how to get out of this predicament.  He said his drill sergeant was a sadistic lunatic who set out to break him.  And he did.  My cousin was a nerdy, wimpy college-boy type who was completely unfit for the military.  Which was why the drill sergeant particularly hated him.  If anybody saw the movie “Full Metal Jacket,” it sounded like that.  Only worse.  Plus, my cousin’s father had been ruined by World War II.  So my cousin was especially freaked out about the idea of going off to war.  Every night I’d hear him screaming in his sleep while he was having nightmares.

I wonder how many people remember what it was like back then in 1969, re Vietnam.  The heated emotions.  On all side.  Many people considered my cousin a deserter and a traitor who should be hung.  And President Nixon had the National Guard shooting and killing anti-war demonstrators at Kent State back then.  That’s how volatile the whole situation was.  It was a wrenching decision for 18-year-old kids to deal with Vietnam.  It split America in half.  It was practically a civil war in a way.

So anyways, this went on for a month with my cousin hiding in our house during the day and screaming from nightmares at night.  Finally, my father, who was a Methodist minister, managed to get him off as a “conscientious objector.”  The end.




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