Lasting Impressions

by James Glaser
December 2, 2002

I saw an American Soldier on TV with an American flag on his helmet and this following scene popped into my mind. I am sure if the little girl of all those years ago saw that same news clip I did, she was back in Hue with me.

It was 1968 and I was in Hue, Vietnam. There were several of us walking down this street and we turned a corner and there they were, three dead bloated bodies right on the edge of the road. Seeing dead bodies wasn't all that unusual, what was so strange that day was the three little kids playing in the yard next to these bodies.

Like it was yesterday I can see those kids. They were all very young, clean, and I can see that neat little yard they were sitting in with a couple of flowers, they were yellow.

About the same time we got there, a Vietnamese street crew got there. I could see that all three of these bodies were women, bloated as they were it was hard to tell ages, but I guessed that they were young women. They were wearing those long white robes that girls at the school in Hue always wore.

All of us stood there to see what this street crew would do. We all had on helmets, flak jackets and were carrying rifles. As I think back we were looking pretty dirty from walking those dusty streets and guys were joking and yelling at each other. Young guys in a war zone in a foreign country that are really scared put up a rough front.

Well these street workers got out of their old truck and walked back and looked at us and then at the bodies. These guys had seen enough death to know by the condition of the bodies it wasn't us that killed them. Right away they asked for a Salem cigarette, all smiles and friendly.

I look back and see that those little kids are now standing, looking at what we are going to do. I still remember thinking that these street guys were going to grab those bodies and throw them up on the flat bed of the truck and drive away.

Body retrieval wasn't their job, but they took out old tarps and covered the bodies and turned to go. At the same time the oldest of the little kids, a girl of about six ran out crying and started taking the tarp off of the last woman covered. The guy from the street crew came over and tenderly picked her up, talking to her and yelling at the house. An old woman came out and as the man carrying the little girl walked by me, she stopped crying and just yelled at me.

I had a little American flag on the front of my helmet. That flag was new and looked kind of bright and she was looking right at it. I don't know if that dead woman was her mother or sister, but I do know that day made a lifelong impression on me. I am sure that little girl can remember it like I can and every time she sees an American flag, I am sure she can see the one I had on my helmet. I don't know who killed those women. I watched a cart come and pick them up and wondered what those kids were thinking. For sure a loved one was killed and forever that death will be remembered as will our flag.

All wars make lasting impressions. Some might be good for America, but most are not.

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