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The Last Gun Fighter

posted 5/23/2009 11:56:33 PM |
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  GryGoast


By Master GryGoast

Long ago and far away... in that other future time that my country called Vietnam. A young boy of blue eyes and an innocent heart, idealistic in the tradition of his father and his father before him left the land and rivers and lakes of his birth and sought his test of manhood, to reap the fruit of his destiny. As he boarded the bus that was to take him to his fate, his father said good-bye with a handshake and words of praise, like Patriot and Duty and Honor. My father was also a plan and simple man... his greatest pride in life were his sons... so you see , how could I not. With the pride for me shining in my fathers eyes, and utterly no idea of the terror and horror that awaited me, I left my wonderful life in the forest that I love so much... never to return, whole and complete again.

Vietnam was the great gushing wound that bled the innocents from my country. You must understand the American heart to realize the depth of this great tragedy. For you see, the American people are, at their core, innocent and naive in the ways of the wider world. We believe that we are not gods chosen few, but rather that, bye and large, we are kind, and decent people, generous to a fault, and to us this is a great pride. Vietnam was the terror, the horror that haunts a child’s sleep, even today. It was the meat grinder that consumed our bravest, our best, our brightest, and returned nothing but the agony of a mother’s hart, broken by the loss of a son.

My service was common, aboard the beast of steel and armor, flesh and fear... and yes… from time to time, uncommon valor and courage, a light cruiser of WW II vintage, A noble ship having a long and distinguish career. The Battle of Layette Gulf, The Battle of Okinawa, Battle Honors won during Korea and Vietnam of course.

Dear innocent one... how could you possibly know. A ship is a miraculous thing, it is more than it's parts of steel and cable and engines from which it is assembled. At sea, it is living thing, it breathes, it pumps its lifeblood through veins and arteries of iron. It sings it's lullaby of the sea as it cuts the waves upon its appointed task... The trawler to harvest the bounty of the sea that god has provided, feeding the hungry multitudes ... the beast of burden, delivering the fruits of men's labors far and wide. Ah... but a combat ship at sea, now that is something ethereal... Sleek and lean, fast and agile, heavily armored and heavily armed. A thing of grace and beauty.... and awesome power. It is small wonder to me, that men would fight and bleed and die, without hesitation to protect her, to defend her, to uphold her honor.




We came around the headlands, at full battle speed. The task force led by my warrior queen of steel and fire. Her entourage of destroyers, charging, fast upon her wake, out-riders, protecting her flanks. It was a small place on the map, Ann Loc perhaps... or maybe Vinn... One of the old defended French ports. The iron dogs of the towns defenses barked and snarled there defiance at our violation of the home waters, we returned as good as we got... like prize fighters standing toe to toe, 2000 yards off the beach, "Point Blank Range", exchanging punches. Our guns so hot the paint was burned away, the pounding throb of the engines under full strain, the beat of the air circulation... the smell of fear and terror in the air, and yes dear reader, above it all.... the guns.

Salvo after Salvo...

the rattle of spent shell cases

the whine of the rammer seating the next shell

the slam of the breach block

the recoil of the guns themselves

And then, to do it again... and again... and again.

Loader crews tested to their limits and beyond. Men straining past exhaustion, yet could seek no rest, our magnificent Queen of steel, our lover, our mistress must be defended above all other considerations.

Then it happened… the skill of our adversary’s gunners, or luck, or the hand of fate… I do not know. The shell struck deep, into the bowels of my beautiful ship. From my station in the gun house I could here the sounds of the rape of my perfect lover, the scream of tortured metal, the protest of broken machines, the cries of wounded men, (boys really), calling for the comfort of there mother’s caress. Now there was only escape. Like angered wasp around the queen of the smashed hive… our destroyer rallied to our aid. The shore batteries, now like the wolf pack that smells the blood of the wounded stag, intensified and concentrated there fire, seeking the killing blow. The air was filled with shot and shell, ours and theirs. Three more ships were struck, intercepting shells meant for us. When at last we were out of range, all turn to the fires. It would be three days before the fires would be out, and another five days to collect and bury the dead. I sustained shrapnel wounds, to my arm, my face.

Alas... its the wound to my heart that will not heal... what elixirs do I seek for that?

Godspeed

Master Gry



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Comments:

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DarkKnightWalking

May 24 @ 10:26AM  
Bro Huggz for a brother indeed....


Grandad served in the Korean War, two uncles in Nam...I myself in two branches. So my heart goes with you and let the wounds heal, brother. But so shall the scars remain and the memories as well.
flavorbuster

May 24 @ 10:38AM  
From one veteran to a another you have my respect as well
soft_touch938

May 24 @ 2:05PM  
I don't know what to say. You told it so well and I am so touched by your words. I remember that era. I was young and ignorant. A war that blazed across my T.V. screen yet seemed unreal in my world. I was busy raising babies and I knew no one serving there.

I do remember how hard it was to watch the news...horrors that I couldn't fathom. A war I didn't understand. I remember feeling the shame for this country of people who not only didn't support that war but didn't support our soldiers either. I couldn't understand that either.

It was only later, with age that I was to realize the devastation. The loss of lives, the wounded men who came home to a country that treated them shabbily. The inner wounds that were never to heal...not just the wounds of war but the wounds of hurt from a thankless country.

A scar of shame for America. For a government who still overlooks those Vietnam vererans. A wall of names is good but in my opinion just a bandaid on a gaping wound to salve the conscience of their own failures.

I wish you peace among your storm of memories. There ARE many Americans who were grateful for those who served in Vietnam. But sadly it was the voice of the ugly and ignorant that was heard over those who honored and cared about all of you. Too often that is the case...the caring people go unheard in the roar of the angry crowd.

Hugs to you. Thanks seems so inadequate but I just don't have any other words to show my gratitude.

Softie
onehornytoad69

May 24 @ 2:12PM  
StraddleMyNose

May 25 @ 12:58AM  
dreama354

Jul 14 @ 1:34PM  
>>Then it happened… the skill of our adversary’s gunners, or luck, or the hand of fate… I do not know. The shell struck deep, into the bowels of my beautiful ship. From my station in the gun house I could here the sounds of the rape of my perfect lover, the scream of tortured metal, the protest of broken machines, the cries of wounded men, (boys really), calling for the comfort of there mother’s caress. Now there was only escape. Like angered wasp around the queen of the smashed hive… our destroyer rallied to our aid. The shore batteries, now like the wolf pack that smells the blood of the wounded stag, intensified and concentrated there fire, seeking the killing blow. The air was filled with shot and shell, ours and theirs. Three more ships were struck, intercepting shells meant for us. When at last we were out of range, all turn to the fires. It would be three days before the fires would be out, and another five days to collect and bury the dead. I sustained shrapnel wounds, to my arm, my face.

Alas... its the wound to my heart that will not heal... what elixirs do I seek for that?<<

Your words are haunting.... I thank you for serving our country... My dad was captured at Anzio....WWII... hearing the dying boys calling for their mothers haunted him..... War is hell... There is no elixir to heal the pain...

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The Last Gun Fighter