Choices: Anxiety and fear during troubled times.
The sun rose over a typical September morning. The air was cool, a slight breeze blew in from the northwest. John awoke feeling anxious, dressed and went downstairs for breakfast with the rest of the family. John’s mother greeted him with eyes that were red from crying; his sister looked up at him briefly and then looked away without saying a word.
“Have some breakfast” said John’s mom. “I have made your favorites; pancakes and bacon, extra crisp.”
Jenny, John’s sister, looked at John again, this time with sadness and some fear showing in her youthful eyes.
“Are you really going to do it”, she asked?
“Yea, I suppose I am. After all, what choices do I have” John replied?
Jenny spoke again. “My friend Terry, she said her cousin was killed last week in Vietnam. He was the same age as you. She said her aunt and uncle are really unhappy but at the same time she said her family was very proud too.”
“Jenny, that’s enough talk about someone dying” mom said as she looked soulfully at her son John. He was just eighteen and had only this past June graduated from High School with honors. He had his whole life in front of him and she would be damned if she were going to let him go off to some stupid, useless war that had no purpose other than satisfying some politician’s whim.
John’s dad come into the kitchen and announced, “It’s time to go John. I have already put your gear in the car. Do you have your passport; the money I gave you?”
“Yes sir” John replied.
His mother began to cry. “Write to us as soon as you get settled. Be sure to stay warm and don’t worry about us.” She continued to cry and hugged her son wondering if she would ever see him again.
As John and his dad drove away, he looked back at his mother and sister and wondered, ‘am I doing the right thing?’ By days end John was in Canada, a refuge for those who wanted to escape the draft and the consequences of war.
Across town a similar morning was beginning. Michael was dressed and had eaten a good breakfast. His dad, like Johns’ dad would be driving him this morning, but the destination would be much different. Michael was on his way to the Military Enlistment Processing Center (MEPS) where later in the day he would raise his right hand and swear to defend the constitution of the United States of America.
Michael was a year older than John and had given college a try. He spent the year majoring in drinking beer, playing cards in the dorm and girls, leaving little time for his studies. When Michael returned home with a less than stellar GPA his father had introduced him to the local Army recruiter. With the similar feelings of fear, trepidation, and anxiety to John’s feelings, Michael drove away with his dad at the wheel their old 1957 Mercury. This was the car in which he had learned to drive, the car in which he had taken Barbara to the Senior Prom, the car he had almost wrecked drag racing along Lonesome Point Road. He looked back at his mother as she waved good-bye and wondered, ‘am I doing the right thing?’
This story presents observations and thoughts about people’s reactions during difficult times. It is also about the Nation’s reaction to the Vietnam War and the reactions to the social injustices brought upon American minorities in the 21st Century.
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