A belated Memorial Day post.
One of the frustrating things to me about communicating with non-veterans is the facility with which the focus turns to, and remains with, horror. Though there are some sad details--the hero, one of them--dies in the beginning, this is about love, and not misery.
Imagine that you arrived in Vietnam four or five days ago, the place the whole world is watching and talking about. After a couple of days drawing gear, you are driven by truck along the infamous, if you are paying attention, and you are, Route 9, which runs parallel to the DMZ about 6 miles South of it. It is dotted with lonely little hilltop outposts, all of which have been the site of at least one ferocious battle, and most often many more than that, in the last year between the Marines and the enemy. You stop at one long enough to join your unit, and go to a bunker in a night position a mile or two to the Southwest where you join another Marine in a two man position, who helps you to settle in. You are scared shitless: literally; you couldn't go if you tried.
You've set up two hours on guard, two off, and just when it's so dark you can't see a thing., there is an enormous flash and boom right in front of you; the concussion lifts you and throws you both violently against the back of your bunker. The veteran Marine is calmly talking you through it: check your body parts, still there? Are you bleeding? Wounded? You both are up now, because, as he explains, the enemy is likely to attack, which is true. There is a firefight until near dawn: killing and being killed. In the intervals, to keep you relaxed, he tells you about his sister back home, whom he loves, and how he's not sure he wants to show you her picture until he knows you're the kind of guy that deserves the favor.
At first light, he shows you how to clean up and prepare to move to the next position. He has baptized you into your unit; he has shown you, the new guy, things you will need to know to make it out alive. As you prepare to move out, a sniper's bullet suddenly kills him. Alive, and a helpful older friend, then dead; you have never seen a person die before. You move towards him, then hesitate, overcome by shock. another of the older members of the unit sees this, and tells you, "Look; last night you needed his help, and he gave it. Now he needs you to get him back home." So you carry his body to your next position, a mile or so; you have been in the field in Vietnam for less than one day, you have, barring being killed or wounded, approximately 390 more to go.
Forty one years later, you're thinking of looking up the guy's sister and telling her how much her brother loved her, and how much you loved him.