Kids of Vietnam

Kids of Vietnam

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Chapter 1

Mising son

Chapter 1 – Missing Son
Well, I guess it all started at my hometown in Townsville. I was only nineteen, but if they get you young enough, you will go. I don’t know if younger generations would understand this, but the major needs to know this. I’m off-mark, get it? I’m not willing to get myself involved in a war that so many young idiots like me have died for.
That’s what I had in my head when I went down to the mess hall at six o’ clock in the morning. This was going to be the day that I pushed my instructor to his limit. He needed a taste of his own medicine. He needed to know what it felt like to be pushed around and knocked to the ground and then having to back up and keep staggering on without a word of complaint.
So I walked into the mess hall and sat down with my unit. As I sat between Paul and Frankie, I started to eat my porridge. After a spoonful, I pushed it away, disgust shown on every part of my face. “Ugh! That looks gross! There’s no effing way I’m eating that! I don’t want it!” I protested, screwing up my face in disgust.
Frankie kicked me in the leg. Paul, God bless the man, just sat there and dug into his porridge like the good old soldier he was. “Just eat it Mick. Don’t make Major Dawson’s life a living hell.” He muttered through a mouthful of porridge.
I just ignored him, sniffing at the porridge. “Smells like baby vomit.”
“Shut up and don’t complain!” Frankie snapped, kicking me in the leg again.
I just glared at him. “Shut up Frankie.” I retorted angrily.
Paul was sitting as far away from Frankie as he could get without sitting in my lap. “Will you two stop arguing?” He yelled angrily.
Frankie. “Alright Paul, but he started it.” He then fell back to his cornflakes and glass of orange juice, glaring me down. We never got on well at the best of times.
He annoying sometimes. He had brunette hair, blue eyes and was in his mid forties and was as strapping as all buggery. It was quite the opposite of Paul who had blonde hair and (However this happened is a mystery.) one green eye and one hazel eye. He was as skinny as a rake as well.
I saw Major Dawson come towards us. He was a well-built man who was in his late forties, early fifties. He had brunette hair and hazel eyes and was average in shape and height. He looked at me and pointed to my porridge. “Why aren’t you eating it Mick?” He then stuck his hands on his hips, waiting for my answer.
I pushed it further away from me and Paul dug into it. It was obvious that he enjoyed the camp food. “It smells like baby vomit.” I muttered, watching Paul eat.
He nodded. “Alright then, why don’t you grab yourself a slice of toast or a bowl of cornflakes like Frankie has? There’s plenty of food to go around.”
I shook my head. “I’m not hungry sir.”
Major Dawson eyed me thoughtfully. After a few minutes, he sighed and shook his head. I knew that he knew I was trying to make his day a living hell. “Look Mick, I think it’s time that you and I had a little talk. You know, man to man, heart to heart with the truth out on the table?” He then fell silent, waiting for me to speak again.
I thought about it. I’d never spoken openly to Major Dawson before. I knew that it would be a good opportunity for me to tell him how I felt about the whole conscription business. The more I thought about it, the more sensible it seemed.
I looked back up at him. “He’s a very patient man,” I found myself thinking for about the millionth time this year. When I had what I thought was a well-thought out answer, I began to speak. “Alright sir, that doesn’t sound too bad. There are a few things I would like to discuss with you anyway.”
He nodded. I could tell he understood. “Alright, how about we go into my office to talk?” He suggested as I got up from the table.
I nodded as we walked down the corridor. “Sounds great.” And so we did.
Once we got into his office, I took a quick look at my surroundings. I’d never been inside his office before. I was so surprised at how big it was. It had a high ceiling that was painted white. The walls were wooden, painted with lacquer. Pictures hung on the walls. As I looked closer, some of them were photos of us in a unit. The rest were obviously photos of his family and certificates he’d received and had framed. I sat down at his desk and he sat behind it, preoccupied with some files that he had in his hand. I just sat there, watching him stack the files into neat piles. After about two minutes, he looked up at me. “What’s gotten into you Mick? You used to be the nice guy in my division. What’s going on? Is there something you’re not telling me?”
I sighed. I really didn’t want to contend with him so early in the morning. I then thought back to my aim of the day. I knew I was going to have to explain. “I’m sick of being the one that takes the orders. I’m still the same guy I was when I first started out. The only thing that’s changed is my approach to life. You’re no better than us, so why can you tell us what to do? I’m sick of being the good guy, just shutting my mouth and not complaining.”
Major Dawson just sighed. I knew what was coming. A lecture about behaving myself and doing what I was told. “A true soldier doesn’t ask questions. A true soldier does what he’s told, no questions asked. That’s what a true soldier is. What was the reason you were invited to train at Canungra Land Warfare Training Mick?”
I scowled. He knew damn well that I wasn’t invited. I was sent to go. It was either that or jail. “I wasn’t invited here, I was conscripted sir! You wouldn’t know what makes a true soldier either. A true soldier makes his decisions based on the circumstances. A true soldier learns by asking questions and taking on board the advice he’s given. That’s what a true soldier is sir.” I answered calmly.
The major just looked at me as though he was seeing me plainly for the first time. “Is that what you believe a soldier is?” He asked faintly.
I nodded. “Yes sir, that’s my beliefs on a real soldier. You can say I’m wrong, but I’m allowed to say that. This is, after all, a country where you can say whatever you like.” I answered bluntly.
He pursed his lips and got up and crossed the room to a black and white picture. “Come here for a minute Mick.” He said as beckoned me forward with his index finger.
I obeyed, walking towards where he stood. “Yes sir?”
He pointed to a boy not much older than me in a military uniform. “That there was my son.”
I look at the boy. “What happened to him?” I asked.
I saw the major look sadly at the young boy. “He was reported as missing in action. That was ten years ago. They’re still searching, but to no avail. I say he’s dead. I’ve given up hope long ago.” He then sighed and turned back to his desk. I felt a little sorry for him as I watched him walk back to his desk.
I walked back to the desk. I sat down and looked at him. “Sorry, I didn’t know sir. It’s a hard thing losing someone you love and not knowing if you’ll ever find them again.” I said softly.
He nodded. “Yeah, that’s all I wanted to say to you. You may go back to your dorm with Paul and Frankie. You all have the day off. Goodbye.” And with a wave of his hand, he dismissed me.
I walked back to my dorm. Once I got there, I sat on the top bunk which was my bed. I felt a foot kick me and hung over the edge and looked at Frankie who was reading a book. He was good at relaxing. No matter what, he always took some time off to relax. “What are you reading?” I asked snappily
He looked up at me from his place on the bottom bunk. “Here, take a look.” He said, holding the book up for me to see.
I took the book and took a look at the front cover. It was called Dracula by Bram Stoker. I’d read it when I was about 14 for an assignment. “So what?” I snapped, throwing at his head.
He caught it and set it aside. “It’s alright. Did you find it a good read?”
I ignored him. His thing over breakfast still made me angry. Frankie gave up as he pulled out a crumpled flyer. “Here, read this. It’s a poster for a missing person.” He said shortly.
I snatched the flyer from his hand and started reading:

I handed the flyer back to Frankie. “Isn’t he Major Dawson’s son?” I asked snappishly.
Frankie nodded curtly. “How’d you know? He doesn’t usually talk about his son. It’s a sore spot for him.”
I shrugged. “He told me in his office before I came back in here. He said that he was reported as missing in action and the defence department is still looking for him, but to no avail.” I answered gravely.
Frankie sighed as Paul came into the dorm. I jumped off the bed and sat down near Frankie. Paul saw us and sat down with us. “Hey, Mick, Frankie, you’ll never believe what happened just now!”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “What now?” I asked.
Paul laughed. “We just got the days off silly! Isn’t it so great?”
I slapped my forehead. “Of course, Major Dawson told me we had the day off! I forgot to tell you. Sorry.”
Frankie just shook his head. “Should’ve told us before stupid!” He then looked at Paul. Paul punched him He’s always good like that. He never goes off his head when someone forgets something. He’s very forgiving as well. Frankie’s the opposite. He gets angry and frustrated when someone forgets something and it takes a lot to earn his forgiveness.
Paul took the flyer out of Frankie’s hand and started reading it. After a minute or two, he handed it back to Frankie and looked at me. I had the strangest feeling that he wanted to say something to me, but couldn’t find the words to express what he wanted to say.
I looked at him. “What’s wrong Paul? You look like you’re lost for words. Is there something you would like to say, anything at all?” I asked gently.
He frowned. I could see he was upset. I knew he had been in battle in Korea. He came back to train at the barracks because he couldn’t handle the home life. “Can I tell you something about war?” He asked, looking sadly at me.
I nodded, so he continued. “In war, you see all sorts of horrible things. You know what the worst thing I saw was Mick?”
I shook my head. “What was it Paul?” I asked.
He grimaced. “Well, I was at a machine gun next to my mate, Ricky. Anyway, I had my eye on the enemy, just shooting at them because they were firing at us really bad. I then heard Ricky yell out in shock I turned around to see what the fuss was about and I saw him, just – just lying on the ground, holding his leg in agony. One of the blighters threw a grenade and it hit him clean in the leg. Took off his leg, it did. It was horrible, you cannot imagine Mick. He was a lucky little blighter, Ricky was. He was lucky that there was a medic nearby and when I called out “Stretcher!” they came right away.”
I shivered. “That sounds horrible mate. Ooh……………………..imagine how much pain that guy would’ve been in……………………ah, just thinking about it hurts.”
Paul nodded. “One of the worst things about a war is watching some good friends just screaming for you to end their life. You’re under a lot of pressure in a war too. I remember the time I got injured. Um, I’ve still got the scar. I caught some pieces of shrapnel. A rather painful souvenir from Korea, that was. Here, I’ll show you.” And he pulled his jacket off and took his shirt off. He then turned around with his back to me to reveal a really big scar. It was about the size and width of a five dollar note. I was surprised at how big the scar was. I took a look at it. “How deep is it?” I asked.
Paul chuckled. “How about you touch it and see for yourself. Just push your finger down on it very gently Mick. You should be able to feel how deep it is. Do it very gently though, alright Mick?” He answered.
I nodded. I understood. I hesitated. “I’m scared of hurting you. Will it hurt?” I asked hesitantly.
I saw Paul shake his head. “Not really. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it’s not real pain, just annoying pain; you know what I mean Mick?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I do.”
I touched the scar on his back and pressed down on it. My finger sunk for about 3 centimetres and then it hit a bone in his back. I withdrew my finger as Paul turned around. He pulled his shirt and jacket back on and looked at me. “See what I mean about war now?
I nodded. “Yeah, I do. That felt weird. Like there’s nothing there.”
He nodded. “That’s because there isn’t anything there.”
I nodded. I had a funny feeling that he wasn’t talking about his scar though. I wouldn’t be overly surprised if I was right either.
Paul then got up and left the room. As he did so, I had the funniest feeling that there was more than meets the eye about him.

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