Rex Rutkoski of Freeport, PA, Coastal Region, South Vietnam

Each year, the memories return: Vietnam! It was 46 years ago. He was young then. And now, incredibly, he is a year away from his seventh decade. Yet the memories remain, sometimes so close, sometimes so far away. Today they are close, so very, very close. He can reach out and touch them in his mind and bring them to life. He knows he is fortunate. So many of his brothers aren’t here today to be able to do that.

That thought, and the realization that we as a country still haven’t learned what we needed to from that experience, summons his tears. And, as he has been known to do, he returns to Bob Dylan for reflection on that year so very long ago, but today almost like yesterday:
“Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall’

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
…I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
…I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”
And then the Vietnam veteran thinks of the powerful post-battle remarks of Private Chris Taylor (portrayed by Charlie Sheen) at the end of the 1986 Vietnam film, “Platoon,” for more perspective: “The war is over for me now. But it will always be there, the rest of my days. Be that as it may, those of us who did make it home have an obligation to build again and teach to others what we know and to try, with what’s left of our lives, to find a goodness and meaning to this life.”

And, so, on this Veteran’s Day, 2016, to all my brothers and sisters, who did make it back with me: Welcome Home!

Rex Rutkoski
Freeport, PA