Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 3, 2012

Lifelines: War affects us all

By Terry Wooten
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---- — 'This war doesn't affect me. I don't feel touched by it at all."

Those were the honest words of an eight-grade girl in a journalism class. I was visiting a middle school, and the students were interviewing me for their school newspaper.

At the time I was writing a series of Vietnam poems, and was telling the kids about that war, and its effects. I knew very little about Korea. That's when the topic shifted to Afghanistan, and the student made her comment.

Both veterans below grew up in working class families with a history of serving their country. Their family members couldn't afford college.

The more I read and listen, the more I realize Korea and Vietnam were two halves of the same war. Both boys below went off full of patriotism, and ended up just fighting for survival, so they could come home.

At home they couldn't talk about it, or people wouldn't listen. There's danger living with such pain. This Christmas don't forget our people serving overseas, and the ones who have come home.

Maurice (Fuzzy) Guy

Korean Christmas 1951

On Christmas Eve

the Chinese set up loud speakers

and played Christmas music

to make us homesick.

They were songs from home

like "Silent Night Holy Night."

There was a gal

disc jockey on the radio.

Her name was Seoul City Sue,

and later Pyongyang Sally.

She'd say one of our soldier's names

like, "This song is for Private Maurice Guy,

Enjoy"┬Žit's the last song

you're ever going to hear."

How did they get our names?

Some of our soldiers found the wire

to the speakers

and cut it.

Other guys hollered,

"Hey, come on!

We want to hear more

of that good music!"

Larry Lelito

Christmas Present

It was Christmas 1966.

There was a Bob Hope show,

but one squad had to go out on patrol.

Our group drew the short straw.

It was a cease fire.

We'd made an agreement with the enemy

that there'd be no action

for two days.

I didn't believe that at all.

On patrol we had to be cautious.

You could get ambushed at any time.

We traveled jungle areas

along a river,

and across open rice paddies.

There was no other way.

Separating rice paddies

are dikes

also used for trails.

In the middle were little islands

that offered cover.

It was Christmas,

dusk turning to dark.

We split up into three groups.

I took my team across first,

and nothing happened.

The second team was coming across

when they got hit.

I could see the green tracer bullets

going right at our men,

and the enemies' muzzle flashes.

Two of our men were shot

and fell off the lee side of the dike.

I could hear them hollering

for a corpsman

who was still in the rear.

We opened up on the enemies' muzzle flashes.

I sneaked back

where the wounded guys were.

The enemy was hammering at us,

tearing the dike apart

with gunfire.

We kept calling for help on the radio,

but everybody was at the Bob Hope show

watching Nancy Sinatra.

I was in neck-deep rice paddy water

pinned against the dike for protection

with seriously injured men.

Finally we dragged the wounded on ponchos

to the island.

We picked up a stray helicopter

on the radio

delivering pizzas to the Army.

I told them about our trouble,

and to be prepared to come in hot,

which meant they were going to be shot at.

The wounded were loaded

on the pizza chopper,

and we made it back to our command post.

Our guys were coming back

all whooped up

from watching pretty girls

and drinking lots of beer.

They were all cleaned up.

I was sitting in our sandbag bunker,

covered in mud and another man's blood.

I was numb.

They had a bunch of Christmas gifts

from the states.

One guy gave me a present.

I thought it was a box of canned peaches.

In Vietnam peaches were like heaven

and tasted so good.

I opened the gift up.

It was dog food,

with an insulting note

from a college student back home.

It started out, "Chow down animal!"

Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for 28 years. He is the creator of Stone Circle. Learn more about him at www.terry-wooten.com.