Edward Tick On How The U.S. Fails Its Returning Soldiers
Certainly the Vietnam veterans were made scapegoats for many of the illegal and brutal tactics of that war. Then there are the veterans of all the little forgotten wars: Grenada, Somalia, Lebanon, El Salvador, the secret ops in Africa and Eastern Europe. They are like wandering ghosts, neither honored nor recognized. Many of them are not even classified as combat veterans. I worked with one man who’d been in Somalia and taken part in the fighting around the U.S. Black Hawk helicopter that went down there. He isn’t classified as a combat veteran, and other combat vets don’t accept him because he was “in the shit” for only thirty hours. But anyone who knows the story of what happened that day in Mogadishu can see that it was enough to traumatize anybody.
Venom travels through your circulatory system, burning blood-vessel walls like acid as it goes, so the slower you can get your blood to flow, the better. Knowing this, I did not try to walk to our car, just ten yards away. Don ran to the house for the cellphone and the car keys. He brought the car to me, then called 911 as he drove, asking the dispatcher to have an ambulance meet us at the Bethlehem Fire Department, where there would be emergency medical equipment. Then I called Mama to tell her what had happened.
At the edge of town in Merced, California, sits a pale building whose sign says, “The Gun Runner.” A shooting range and retail outlet for rifles, pistols, and any kind of bullet you might need, it is owned and operated by Sandy, a friend of my family’s and the only true psychic I know. Her husband, Gary, whom I’ve never met, helps her run the place. I haven’t seen Sandy for years, not since my father died and she came to the funeral to tell my mother, my siblings, and me what Dad wanted her to communicate: that he had passed over and was filled with love for us and awe at life’s immensity and regret over whatever hurt his depression might have caused everyone. We trusted Sandy and always welcomed her glimpses into the “other side.”
There is a movement afoot in Congress, and along our southern borders among civilians dressed in fatigues, to keep illegals out. There is a desire to empty the job sites of workers; to shoo away the craftsmen who build and decorate these mansions; to punish them for their late-night crossings. I am a house painter, not a politician. If this were to happen, I see fifty years of painting experience out the door. And that is just within our group.
When my son Tom was born, I was surprised that there was nothing physically wrong with him. I suppose this is the reaction of many first-time older parents. Proud and relieved to have a “normal” child, I had no aspirations for my son to become an artist or to graduate from Harvard or to conquer India. All I wanted for him was good health, sanity, and a shot at being whatever he desired to be.
She had no grandchildren; he was a substitute. She thought of him as her “grand boy.” He wasn’t unrelated, being the grandchild of her father’s sister. She remembered the first time she’d seen him, on his father’s lap in a baby’s stretch suit, fisting the keys of her piano, amazed at the sounds he could produce.
My mother lives on the tenth floor of a high-rise that overlooks New York Harbor from a New Jersey bluff. She leaves only to shop, to return half of what she has bought, and to eat lunch at the Quick Check. She has not been hiking or on lichen or lichen-adjacent since before I knew she had a vagina. Her adventures are happy hours in the penthouse bar, where she counts the freighters and container ships with Al, a retired sea captain.