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The Berlin Wall
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so there it is, the object of the cold war, i never saw that wall even though i was a short way away. i landed in bremerhaven after sailing through some rough storms in the north atlantic at around midnight christmas eve in 1961, i was 19 then and had to travel to a city called worms, most of the GI's went to berlin but i had to go south because i was infantry and we were going to be trained as the beginning forces of the rangers and delta forces. i heard in the mess hall that a young german boy had been shot by the russians and left hanging on the barbed wire near the wall. we were put on alert status. the army in berlin had a three hour survival time and we were always ready to move to berlin from the south. six months earlier i was at whitehouse station in manhattan in my white shorts being filmed by channel 4 as one of kennedy's boys, the new recruits, ready to move out. all the kids back in my neighborhood saw me and the girls blushed when they saw me on tv in my underwear. we were getting our shots. we would walk through a room and doctors and nurses would shoot us up on both sides and in the butt. it was humiliating walking around with your butt hanging out and papers in your hand but the nurses were really pretty. and so here i was in a foreign country, with my duffel bag, and wondering if i ever was gonna get back home and then two years slipped by and i thought it was time to visit my folks stateside so i grabbed a mat (military air transport) and went home for christmas. i met up with all my old friends , they were still kids, they were still playing their old silly games, they made fun of my medals and ribbons and stripes and i just looked at them and couldn't get back into it, they went to a friends home to hang out, drinking cokes and listening to r&r, i asked for a scotch when asked what i would like to drink and that sweet girl went and got me a scotch from her fathers bar, i began to sink into the drink, i couldn't talk, i tried to laugh a little but no real smile on my face, just kids i said to myself, just kids, the girls were sweet and virginal, i had learned too much from the barmaids and women in germany, i was lost in the middle of the gang, the kids, and me, but funny, i did enjoy their company, the kids, we had all gone to school together, the only one missing was my friend eddie, he was in the navy, somewhere in the persian gulf on a destroyer, i wondered if eddie would have felt like me, when the evening was over i would go to the neighborhood bar and get a drink before going home, the older men asked me questians about how the army was preparing for vietnam, they were proud of me and bought me drinks, i was comfortable with them, old men from WWII and korea, all of them had my medals, some even had more, and i could see that look in their eyes as they reminised about their time in the service, that look of lost youth, a sad look, a memory look of lost buddies, as they spoke you could see their eyes light up as they spoke excitedly about their old buddies, their long dead buddies and for an instant they were young again, in a different place and time, i walked a little in the chilly night air, the same sidewalks i walked when i was a small boy, the same corner where i played kick the can, the same stoops where i played stoop ball and sat with a girl looking at the stars, it was my hood and i was a soldier, in uniform, walking strong, the way the army can take a boy and make him into a man, on saturday evening i went to a party at a hall and danced a little, not like i used to dance to haley and his comets, or darin's splish splash, but slower dances where i could hold a young girl around her waist and smell her fragrant hair and place my cheek aside her's, i liked those dances, the next day betty pulled me aside and demanded to know why i was so melancholy and if i didn't stop acting like a bump on a log then we could call it quits and so i said i was sorry for disapointing her of her expectations of me and i walked away and as i hit the street i sort of glided and a little jubilant in my step, of being free of a potential damaging relationship, although i was able to jump out of helicopters i was a coward about ending this friendship with this girl, i know how george costanza felt when he broke off his engagement date it is one of those feelings, as my day's grew shorter my friend eddie came home, we had one day to talk, then as we stood on the old street corner we parted, i said my goodbyes to my other school chum bernie as we sat on his stoop, bernie was getting ready because his number was coming up in the draft and eventually bernie went to nam, bernie and i had a friendship since our first meeting in kindergarden right through our college day's it was the type of friendship as pierre and andre in war and peace where we would always talk for hours and hours, i kissed my family goodbye and got back on the plane out of idelwild and got back to my barracks and as i entered my room i noticed three bunks, empty and rolled up mattresses, three guys in my squad got killed while i was away and then on maneuvers later on my buddy, javier alonzo was killed, in front of me, as i spoke to him, as he screemed. believe me when i tell you that it is the united states armed forces that keep this country free, that keep you and me free, when i came home to start my 3 years of reserves, i felt alone again because half of this country wanted to bring it's soldiers home from an unwanted war, i was an old man at 22, in uniform when all the guys were wearing bell bottoms, long hair and singing, "are you going to san francisco"? what happened? things changed.
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EvilGentleman: 27th Apr 2007 - 11:09 GMT
Thank you, jack. You are leaving little slices of the America you grew up in, and the America you defended, all over the internet. And we are all the richer for you having done so.
anon (ip-118-90-14-81.xdsl.xnet.co.nz): 5th Jun 2010 - 02:17 GMT
That's an amazing piece of writing. Your story is a poignant snapshot of another time. A time I've only heard stories about. I'm in my 20s, studying at Otago Uni in New Zealand. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. My life is so far removed from yours in both time and space. I have a lot of respect for you and what you've done.
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