At one time I worked with a real hero of the Vietnam War.
Everyday my coworkers and I were treated to the most incredible war adventures imaginable. Sometimes even twice a day, we were mesmerized by tales of the valor and courage of characters that we learned all grew to know and love.
Though this guy’s narration, we could almost imagine ourselves the great pain and suffering of losing friends in combat. Morbid bloody scenes, last words, near misses are all embedded in our memories because of the openness of this man. Sometimes he would even breakdown in tears, overcome with emotion. While on lighter occasions we would all be rolling in laughter at some of these great stories.
But like most coworkers inevitably do he eventually moved to another location out of our lives never to be seen again. He was a great guy and everyone hated to see him go.
I few years later I was helping another older friend clean out his locker when I noticed a scrapbook labeled Nam. When I opened it up to my amazement it was filled with metal after metal, award after award, old pictures and certificates documenting the heroics and valor of the recipient. I was flabbergasted.
Not so much because of the awards and honors, but because the scrapbook was not left behind by our friend who was gone. The awards belonged to the friend I was helping, who had never even mentioned that he had fought in the war.
When I ask him why he sat silent though all those stories, he said: “Hell he has never even been in the military. I have known him all my life. You will find that most people who have really been though, or are going though some tough shit don’t like to talk about it much. You might get them to talk a little one on one, but he was just a squeaky wheel wanting grease.”
A lesson learned, forgotten, and learned again.