Congratulations, Marilynn! Your story brought us to tears. Thanks for sharing.
By Marilynn M. Wilkins
Oh, beautiful for spacious skies . . . My family did not want to visit the Viet Nam Wall in Washington D.C. They say," Forget about the past. We have a good life, here." So, I walk alone at twilig ht while they sleep at the hotel.The dog tags are around my neck. I am walking so fast they swing from side to side. I grab them and as I hold them still, I trace the name of my G.I. with my fingers. It is a dream come true to see his name on the wall. I have a candle in my purse and a pack of matches. I will it place at the bottom of the granite panel as a tribute just like the eternal flame at JFK’s grave site because my G.I. was equally as brave to me.
For amber waves of grain . . . I know now why the G.I.’s hated the jungle. For those who don’t know the ways of getting around the thick jungle it is scarey not to be able to see. Here, in America we have a vast land o f beauty, of plains and open spaces and most of all almost nothing to be afraid of. The G.I.’s sprayed the jungle with Agent Orange. Later, they discovered that it causes illness and problems for the Viet Namese and Americans. It is a remembrance of the consequences of war.
For purple mountains majesty . . . I approach the wall and see the statue of the servicemen standing beside it. I can hear in my memory the people of my village as t hey go towards a downed American plane in the rice patty in 1968. My G.I. is covered with mud and raises his hands and places them above his head. It is the first time I have seen a human with crystal clear blue eyes. Only, later, when he washes his head do I learn that he has red hair.His skin is covered in brown imperfect circles. They do not wash off. I think he has a disease. My elders laugh and say that is the way Americans look. I am only nine years old but, the red-headed G.I. holds a fascination for me. There’s a look in his eyes that do not turn loose when you look at him.
Above the fruited plain. . . My G.I. is put into the "chicken pen." He is hit and interrogated every day. He says nothing but his name. At night, after supper, I take him my own rice and kim chee. My Mother wonders why I do not eat. She is old and tired and does no t notice that I save it. My cousin, who is a soldier for my country gives it to my G.I. I do not want him to die. He has lost a lot of his weight and has only been here three months. His skin is yellow. I do not know what it means but, I think I do.Sometimes I go to his cell and look through the opening. He walks to the door, looks through and winks his eye at me. I wonder if he knows the rice came from me. I can’t tell him because I can’t speak English.
America! America! God shed his grace on thee . . . Am I a traitor because I lie awake at night worrying that the American may be dying? Every little while I go and look at him. There is nothing I can do. Sometimes he writes with his finger on the wall, imaginary writing. He has no writing mate rials. I wonder what the letters mean. I take him some meat the next night. He needs more than rice to survive.
And crown thy good with brotherhood . . . When God takes him to Heaven, my cousin gives me his dog tags. I can trade them for something nice but, I don’t. I keep them and wear them on important occasions. When I ask to be an American, when I ask to be admitted to college in Boston and the night I knew my husband might ask me to marry him.When my children are born I wea r them, too. Sometimes my husband thinks the G.I. is an intrusion on our lives but, I know that knowing him has made me what I am today, a proud American.
From sea to shining sea . . . There are only a few people here at the wall this morning. I am glad. I walk to the panel and count the lines down to the name that matches the dog tags. I trace the name with my index finger as I did as a child with the name on the dog tags. I light the candle and place it on the cement below. In my mind I can still see him wink at me. I cry a long time. ****
Marilynn M. Wilkins lives and writes in San Antonio,Texas. Since July of 2004 she has had 15 stories and/or poems published online. A print magazine, Penwomanship recently accepted a story and a poem.Marilynn is a grandmother and great-grandmother. Look for her stories in Penwomanship, Skive Magazine and www.laurahird.com., and Longstoryshort. Contact Marilynn.