In search of the perfect Vietnam Metaphor -Part II | Eastern North Carolina Now

   These Vietnam articles have been somewhat cathartic for me. It gives me a chance to write the memories largely for an audience I do not know but requires a more disciplined thought process than just telling a story because it will be somewhat permanent. None of the Vietnam series of articles on BCN have been circulated to any of my friends or family (except TMC). I think writing anonymously encourages a more honest story. Bobby Tony

    I wrote an article about my search for a way to explain the Vietnam experience. I made reference to an old combat buddy who was traveling through Georgia and wanted to meet up. See the article here for the context of this extension of that article. In Search of the perfect Vietnam metaphor Part I

    As the time approached, I began to have second thoughts about digging back into that abyss. When I got the phone call from him that they were leaving Asheville, NC in route to Atlanta, I made up an excuse that I had to go visit my brother in Chattanooga, Tn. It was a lie and Gary probably knew it.

    He told me he had a memento he wanted to send me and he would mail it when he got back to Portland. We talked for a couple of hours on the phone and several times afterward.

    When he got back home he mailed the memento to me. I got it in the mail today. It was an engraved plaque with one of my pictures on it that he had clipped from our unit website. Gary has a home shop with a CNC type engraver.

Here is the picture and below that the engraving. I have posted it before here on BCN.

1968 Vietnam

2016 Georgia

    Needless to say I was overwhelmed when I opened the box. Gary carried the 90MM Recoilless rifle and that round I have in my hands is a 90MM round. Because of the size of those rounds, almost everyone carried a round with them when we were heading out to set up a temporary logger site.

    Gary said when he saw that picture on our website, he immediately know he had to make an engraving of it for me. We had not talked or emailed in 48 years. I have only been able to make contact with a few of my combat buddies over the years, and most of the time we exchanged emails and then let the moved on with our lives.

    It is an interesting trait that some combat buddies want to attend reunions and enjoy reliving all the comradery of their experience and some like me prefer to keep the memories in the past but ever close to the surface. Gary, like me had decided that he did not care to revisit his time until he grew older and had some distance between 1968 and now.

    Below is the email exchange we had after I received the plaque.    
Me:     I am overwhelmed. I received the plaque today. I don't have any words that can express my thanks for this gift. I hung it on my entrance wall under the Ozzie and Rosey display.

    Thank you so much. When did you make this and how? I assume it was a scan from the picture and then programed into a CNC machine. I am amazed at the detail of the picture. I am greatly touched by your thoughts. I have been thinking quite a bit about Vietnam this past year since I am writing a recap for the family history.. My plan is to travel to Washington DC in 2018, which will be the 50th year anniversary. I don't know if I will have the courage to do that but that is the plan.

    I try to keep the memories at a distance least I fall into the well, but this gesture brings back many great memories of our shared experience.

    Like you hardly a day goes by that I don't think about something from Vietnam. I did not dwell on it for many years but as I aged, I found it was a bit easier to revisit some of the memories.
    Welcome Home Brother!!!!
    Below is the picture of the wall inside my front door. It is the first thing anyone sees when they enter the house and the last when they leave.

    Here is his Gary's reply.
    Gary: Tony my friend,

    I first thought of this when we made contact a few years back. I saw that picture and said it was perfect. I worked on the model now and then and was not sure if it would be something that would help you or bring bad memories.

    I went ahead and did this when we planned our trip and I knew I would be close to where you live.

    I have done many engravings mostly in wood. Most have been things like The Last Supper and Jesus and the Lamb. Have done a few of the Stations of the Cross. I love to give them out when I think it will do someone some good. Just little is all I hope for.

    I have software that will allow me to create depth based on color. I have two CNC machines in my garage. I am mostly a wood worker but sometimes metal is the correct thing to use.

    When I finished yours I looked at it and thought. Dang there was just too much going on so this time I darkened it with a permanent marker and then used very fine steel wool to highlight what I wanted.

    Everyone that saw it loved it. I am so happy that you do.

    The trip to the Wall was hard for me. I cried the whole time I walked along that wall. But there was healing from the compaction of the people who saw my pain.

    I know it will never completely go away but I try to take steps when I can. I find it very hard to talk to anyone that doesn't know without getting emotional but its ok to show your pain.

    I going to give you a link to something I did a number of years ago that was my first step in healing. I was at a retreat through our church for Veterans. A Healing Retreat. I was interviewed and an article was written and has been viewed worldwide because of the magazine it was in. My hope is somehow it has helped someone else.

    A veteran seeks to heal deep spiritual wounds of warfare

    Welcome Home to you.

    I will send some pictures of the wall in a few days.

    If you follow the link to the article you will see that Gary also had the misgiving of guilt that all combat veterans carry. Here is a short quote from the Article.
   Ascher returned home and went to Mass with his wife, as he had on occasion for years. That day at Holy Trinity, Father Dave Gutmann gave a homily contrasting false guilt and true guilt. The notion hit Ascher between the eyes.

    I began to realize that my guilt and misgivings were not a result of my combat but of my good fortune. You see, Gary spent the whole 364 and a wake-up in the field. I only spent 180 days or so before I was reassigned to the rear. My guilt came from a very different experience, which is a story for another day. Suffice it to say, that it was easier to accept a comrades death when you were there with them than it was when you were in the "'rear with the gear."

Gary sent this picture of his visit to the wall in DC.
It is the tracings of those in our unit who perished during his year in country.

   Here is a young Gary in 1968.

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