OF THE WAR
TO END ALL WARS
By Dr. Don Noyes More Ph.D.
Henry was a smallish man, a little
stooped over, slight of build,
gray hair and blue eyes. His voice was thick,
low, and halting. Henry’s world was one-half block long. That’s how far he
could walk in a day. It was on a few of these walks with Henry that he shared
his ideas on life, love, war and his deep brooding soul. We were many years
apart in age. I was an eager kid willing to listen. It was 1969. The war in
Vietnam was in progress and the news on television was grim – the body count
high. Americans by the hundreds of thousands protested the war in Vietnam on
the street, in Congress, and on university campuses. We were also a nation
divided by racial rebellion on our streets, and politically motivated murders.
where the soldiers of retreat are buried, underneath the faded star” Benet
Walk With Henry
“I was in
France,” he started. “They gassed us, mustard gas,” he points to his head.
“Could not get the damn mask on in time. It got me bad. I spent almost a year
and a half in the hospital. It ruined my life. They gave me a goddamn medal!
Twelve friends were killed the day we got gassed.” He looks at his feet. I feel
the memories along with him. “I still have that goddamn medal. We were stupid
kids, thought we’d be on a lark and all. War! What did we know?”
married, always felt alone. What woman would want a broken-down soldier anyway?
Never liked ‘em after the war anyway. Something just happened to me,” he
war I became an accountant. I could be alone most of the time, no one bothering
me, just do those numbers, no person getting on my nerves, no goddamn person!”
By this time I’m feeling somewhat honored Henry even speaks to me. He is deeply
bitter, dark, hurt, but has a need to talk. There are moments of combat fatigue
that makes its way through the years. His feelings are real.
these are memories from just moments ago in his experience, moments of 1918. He
mumbles something about “Kids!”
kids. They want to kill off every new group of goddamn kids!” To Henry
“they” is the government. “Now,” Henry continues, “have we forgot to
fight any group of people on this goddamn earth?” Henry remarks with
bitter sarcasm. “Vietnam?” Henry snaps. “Now there’s a piece of work! How
goddamn foolish can we get, fighting for a bunch of assholes in Asia! We should
go someplace closer to home, like Mexico or Las Vegas. If we’d go to Vegas, it
would be easy to bomb, closer to home. People in Vegas could run faster from
that napalm.” (napalm: anti-personnel jellied fire bomb) Henry pauses, “Don, I
think about those kids every day. They’re never coming home whole, ya know? I
know the feeling, I do! It’s just not right.” Calm comes to his face, Henry’s
eyes well up with tears. “I love every one of ‘em, I fought with ‘em years ago.
They’re still the same boys. Don, don’t ever go in yourself, never!”
“I let life
pass me by. Never let that happen to you. Enjoy life,” Henry strains for the
words and the breath. We walked back to his court apartment and Henry invites
me in. He slowly walked over to a side table next to a worn burgundy couch,
picked up a cardboard box and pulled a picture from it. “Here Don, here’s a
picture of me before I went in the army.” There looking at me through all the
years is a fresh, clear eyed boy, deeply handsome, confident. The picture looks
like so many people I know. I’m disturbed by it.
is deaf and mute. Henry pulls the picture from my hands, “Don’t forget him,
Don, don’t ever forget him!”
won’t,” I respond, trying to hold in my tears. I handed Henry the picture.
He sat down
on the sofa, looking at his picture, “You better go now,” he said softly. I
touched his arm and then left. He didn’t look up. He just kept looking at that
ambulance came one Saturday morning in early December. I heard it, but never
went to see who was in trouble. They took Henry away. Henry never returned to
the neat little court apartment. Henry’s one block universe became infinite.
this day I can still see the picture of that boy in my mind – a fresh,
clear-eyed boy, deeply handsome and confident. I’ll keep Henry’s trust. I’ll