Thursday, July 21, 2005

I became a soldier

I became a soldier in Okinawa, sometime between 1967 and 1969. The Vietnam War was raging. It was all over the TV, fighting, shooting, bombing, monks setting themselves on fire, and naked children burned alive from napalm. We watched war movies like ’The Green Berets”, war shows like “Combat” and we played war with plastic machine guns and grenades. We played war in the same jungles where thousands lost their lives in the previous war. We found old bullet shells, bayonets and dozens of tunnels and caves where the Japs hid out. (I can say Jap because I am half Japanese)

Jets flew over our house daily, and I dove for cover, pretending they were Japs attacking. The double bladed helicopters were my favorite and I used to call them Grasshoppers because that’s what they looked like. They were huge helicopters used to move heavy equipment and vehicles. Outside of Kadena Air Base there was a clearing where the Grasshoppers dropped off all the damaged trucks, jeeps and tanks form Nam. The clearing must have been at least a square mile and it kept growing. As far as the eye can see, a mass of olive green mangled steel. I got in trouble for playing there, but I did get to play in some neato (word we used back then) tanks, jets and Grasshoppers. And the GI’s gave us rides in their jeeps, and I got to ride in an amphibious tank once too. My father was in Nam, but some of the GI’s on base showed me their guns and gear. They let me shoot a machine gun. It was set up on tripods and I got to shoot at least a hundred rounds at a silhouette man. I blew that silhouette man to shreds. But I picked up an expended shell and burned my hand before the GI could warn me. I got to climb up a tall wooden tower where they rigged me in a harness and slid me down a cable that emulated a parachute jump. The GI’s used it for practice. I must have done that a dozen times before it was “sh_t on a shingle” time.

All I wanted to be was a soldier and fight for my country. Fight for Lyndon B. Johnson. But when I got sick I saw the other side of the war. The Military Hospital was filled with wounded GI’s, missing legs, arms, hands, feet and eyes. They were lying on stretchers moaning, and so was I. I had a tube sticking out of my bladder for about a week. It was held in place by prongs in my bladder much like an arrow head. The only way to take it out was to pull it. I did not know how to curse back then, but Damn! When it got infected the Doc opened up the hole and I could see the pink flesh as he scooped out the pus with his finger. Damn! But I never cried. Not even when they stuck a tube in my penis and jammed it into my bladder for some stupid test, then pulled it out again. (Although I did tear up from the pain) It was the most painful thing I ever felt. They did this procedure six times, and by the seventh time I said, “no more.”

But a GI wheeled into my room with the same tube, only his tube was much larger, and he said he heard that I never cried or screamed. He said he was going through the same thing and it was something that the Docs had to do. He said he knew how it hurts and was proud of me no matter what, but if I let the Docs finish the tests, I would be braver than most men in his platoon. The GI looked like hell. He looked like he was the one that needed the pep talk, and his eyes were tearing up from pain too—I heard that the test hurts worse for an adult.--so I said, “Okay, if you finish, then I’ll finish.” I felt sorry for the guy, and I did it for him. And I was prouder than ever, to be among soldiers.

I’m still a soldier at heart today, and trust our leaders act on what’s best for our country. Sure our leaders make mistakes, but it’s a soldier job to follow orders without question. If they don’t, then we won’t win the wars that need winning.

My grandfather killed Japs in WWII and I’m proud of his service. That was his job, and he did it for our country. My mom was a little girl in Tokyo when B-52 bombers dropped their bombs. Most everyone in her school was killed and she saw her best friend screaming and burning alive. My mom was hit in the chest and stomach from shrapnel and almost died. But her father was a doctor and saved her life. My mom loved her older brother who was drafted to become a Kamikaze. They drafted college students because they can more quickly learn how to fly. He was a soldier on the “other” side willing to die for his country. But he died of a stroke before his mission.

After the war, my mom’s uncle became General Douglas McArthur’s tailor in Japan. McArthur used to bring my mom gifts, and he taught her some English. He gave her an apple when all she had to eat was powdered milk and crackers. My mom admired McArthur, and grew up wanting to be an American.

Today, sixty years after WWII, I still get blamed for bombing Pearl Harbor (where I was born, by the way, in Tripler Hospital right by the harbor.) I am called a nip, jap, gook, slopehead, chink (?), slant eyes, and dirty yellow monkey. My white relatives hate Japanese. My white, Vietnamese and Korean girlfriends all hated Japanese. And my Chinese wife hates Japanese. And this is because they all lost loved ones or relatives to the Japanese in the war. And I think this is natural and healthy response to the atrocities Japanese committed in the war.

So even though I never personally ever killed anyone’s loved ones, I take the sh_t. I take the sh_t for the GI in Okinawa who took sh_t in Vietnam for you and me. And I take the sh_t for the American soldier in IRAQ who is taking sh_t right now, for you and me. Because if an American Soldier has to take sh_t, then I’m right there beside him. Support our Troops.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice story--cool blog!