“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
…Henry David Thoreau
Just a succinct little phrase where a guy states he is homesick,…not hardly.
A friend and i were sitting on the berm – a wall of sand pushed-up at least head high around a firebase to cut-down on sniper rounds . It was very quiet and we just silently ached for the forest.
A full hundred meters out from the berm and surrounding the firebase was a cleared field-of-fire. Beyond this was the jungle sweltering in a fine green haze.
Now I’m a country boy and I do love to take-off on a walk through the woods…to hunt fish or just explore. I have always felt safe in the woods…but not these jungles.
The reason I was there in this particular place at this time was that the people of America selected me, through the selective service system, to serve in the Army and eventually be sent to Republic of South Vietnam. Now having reached this remote dot in the world…the full might and power of the United States demanded that I stand here and nowhere else.
Arrayed before us is the insidious, undefeated, implacable spirit of Asia…they were there, yonder in that banana palm jungle seething with rotted fruit and bodies. And the great dark spirit had gathered here for one reason only.
The sole purpose of this endless flow of yellow men is to crush me and all others like me and wash our blood and bone into the rivers so we would leave no visible monument of out having passed this way.
Here I was about to be crushed into dust much finer than the rice paste I liked to much.
When I said, “I just want to life, man” it was an exercise in futility. In such moments of quiet desperation I could not see but I must be ground by the high warlords whose job it was to reduce armies to history.
I did not expect to return home alive. I just wanted to “go home.” Such a simple phrase; a child’s request but for me completely unattainable.
And yet, here I am…alive & whole. The moment I returned I roamed about finding “home”. I didn’t know where it was or what it looked-like. All I knew was it was safe and felt like home.
In these past 40-odd years I have worked hard to build the home I could not locate. I have built good strong homes filled with good children and grandchildren. I have accomplished this.
Yet punctuated through the time of construction, building, teaching, raising-up…there have been, like punji pits, those ‘moments of quiet desperation. And I swear on all that is Holy I still utter the same plaintive cry, “I don’t wanna die, I just wanna go home!”