BY TERRY WOOTEN
---- — I was just a private,
a nineteen year old kid
shaking in my boots,
but I’d been there a while
and had already killed.
— From Walking on Bullets
I first met Maurice (Fuzzy) Guy at a Veterans’ Association meeting last summer. Maurice started attending their group sessions five years ago, at the suggestion of his therapist. It was there he first opened up and found relief among men wounded inside like he was.
I attended the meeting as a guest of Larry Lelito, the Commander of the local Military Order of the Purple Heart. Larry is a Vietnam War Veteran, and I stood up against that war. Fuzzy, a Korean War Veteran, took an interest in me.
Later, I did interviews with Fuzzy and his wife Carol. So far I’ve written 38 poems. I had to put them on a shelf for a while. I think I was suffering from literary shell shock. “Walking on Bullets” is a work in progress, and a salute to Korean War Veterans on the 60th anniversary of the truce.
Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for 29 years. He is also the creator of Stone Circle, a triple ring of boulders featuring poetry, storytelling and music on his property north of Elk Rapids. Learn more at www.terrywooten.com.
Sixty Years Later
In the middle of the night
the enemy would scream and holler
a battle cry.
Then they’d start blowing bugles
back and forth.
It was frightening as all get out,
scary as hell
and sent shivers down your spine.
Oh, those bugles…
I can still hear them at night
sixty years later.
It’s like your life is very close
to being over.
It’s a hard spot to be in.
“Fuzz, you’re not going to get out of this.
You’re going to get one.
This is the end of the world.”
We had guys in our company
they’d hide in a fox hole,
hold their rifles over their heads
and shoot without aiming.
I didn’t want to be around those guys.
I was afraid they’d shoot me.
I was no hero,
nothing like that.
But one thing I could do was shoot
with an M-1 rifle.
I could hit what I aimed at,
and this kept me alive.
I practically grew up with a rifle
in my hands.
My family had to kill for our food,
but we didn’t kill people.
I’m not going to brag about that.
I’ve had a lot of problems since.
We were fighting in the Kumhwa Mountains
before the truce was signed.
It was raining,
and a fog was lifting
in the early morning.
Seems like it was always raining.
Quite a few of the enemy were slipping around
in the gray mist,
taking shots at us.
I was on the far left of our line
in a fox hole
we’d dug there.
We were putting down some good fire.
I was seeing movement,
till I didn’t see any more.
I saw another shape move to my left,
and swung the rifle around
to let ‘em have it.
I’ll never forget what happened next.
I still wake up at night
and see a shape that looks like it’s crawling
before it stands up.
I aimed right in the middle
where I always did,
and got ready to pull the trigger.
I didn’t shoot
because the shape was only three feet high.
I realized it was a little kid
six or seven years old.
The child saw me,
waved and ran towards me.
He wore a pair of little pants
and thin T-shirt.
The enemy had probably killed his family,
and he’d escaped somehow.
I reached out
and pulled him into our foxhole.
(A long silence… Fuzzy almost cries.)
I came so close to killing him.
He curled up on my feet,
hugged my leg
and started to cry.
I sent word along the line,
“I’ve got a little kid over here.”
Our old sergeant came up the trench
and held the child.
He said somebody would take him
down the hill.
Sergeant crawled away
carrying that little boy
through the trench.
The soldier next to me started crying.
They used to send lost children
to an orphanage in Seoul.
I wake up at night
and wonder about that little boy.
I can still feel him
wrapped around my leg
holding on so tight.
I’m so glad I didn’t shoot.