Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bobby Terrell.

Bobby Terrell is a sixty year old Vietnam veteran. He was a crew chief in the Air Force. He went in in 1968 after graduating from high school. He didn't have too. His father could have kept him in school until the war was over. Mr. Terrell made the decision to go anyway. He felt it was his turn to fight for his country.

I met Bobby Terrel today. He doesn't live too far from me and he was my last scheduled installation for today. I knew I was at the home of a Vietnam Vet as soon as I pulled up. There was a large POW-MIA flag flying in the front yard along with a smaller American flag. A pick-up truck parked in the driveway had a Vietnam Veterans license plate.

He's a tall, lanky man who looks ten to fifteen years younger than he is. He has long, black hair going to gray and a thin handlebar mustache. He referred to himself as an 'old Indian,' and that background showed clearly in his features.

He spoke very passionately about his love for his country, and his fear of what it is becoming. He doesn't know why after all the years this country has spent fighting socialism it is suddenly seeming to embrace it. I don't understand either.

His bedroom is neat and clean. He sat on his bed, surrounded by memorabilia of a Vietnam Vet and old soldier, smoking and talking about his thoughts about Vietnam and being a soldier. He told when you're 'over there' you get scared, but you also get pissed off. He said it was an anger like that you feel when some kid in school wants to kick you ass and you're hell bent to kick his instead.

I listened to him talk and I felt again, as I do from time to time, the shame that I never joined the military. I've had my reasons, and I'm still convinced they're good ones, but that doesn't make that feeling go away.

Mr. Terrell had two helmets displayed on his dresser. One was obviously a replica of his helmet from Vietnam. The other was a replica of a Nazi helmet. He pointed them out to me and said, "See those two helmets? One's an American helmet, and one's a Nazi helmet. Both were worn by boys who thought they were fighting for what was right, but you know who won, don't you?" He clenched his fist and I could see him tremble with the emotion as he continued, "We'll never be defeated. Ever."

As I was leaving I shook his hand and wished him luck on finding a new job, he'd just been laid around the same time I was. He laughed bitterly. "Hell, I don't care. I'm dying anyway. I won't be around much longer."

Emphysema. I remembered seeing the oxygen mask and tubes on his bedside table. I told him I hoped he lived longer than he expected too, and that I was glad I had met him. I told him I wouldn't forget him. He smiled, and said thank you.

I hope he goes peacefully and with as little pain as possible. I wish I could do something for him. I hope my words to him today were some comfort. I hope he felt like someone really listened to him and took what he had to say seriously.

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