Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 10, 2013

Terry Wooten: Poet's salute to veterans

BY TERRY WOOTEN
Poet bard

---- — 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.

I thought,

“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

so afraid

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.

Fog

We were fighting in the Kumhwa Mountains

ten days

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,

and shooting

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.