(A Conversation with My 8 Year Old Grandson, Trisden) Some what confused over the hoopla celebrating the anniversary of D-Day my grandson asked me: “Grampa...were you in this D-Day?’ I replied: “No hun...I was in a war called the Vietnam War.”
Then he asked me: “Grampa...were you a hero in that Vietnam war?” I answered: “Who, me...no grandson, I wasn’t a hero in that Vietnam war...but I sure did serve with a mess of them.” Then he asked: “But grampa, what about all those medals and things on that old uniform you keep put away in the back of your closet?” I answered: “Now just what are you doing snooping around in the back of my closet? Ahhh...never mind.” Then I asked him: “ You know when you have a good friend, a very good friend, and your good friend happens to get himself into trouble...some very deep doo-doo?” He said: “Yes, grampa.” Then I asked: “Well now grandson, since he’s your very good friend you try to help him as much as you possibly can, right?” He answered: “I surely would, grampa.” Then I told him: “Well...that’s all that I did...and I was awarded those medals for it. It’s nothing more than what I know any one of my fellow Vietnam combat veterans and very good friends would’ve done for me.”
He thought it over for a bit then asked: “But grampa...couldn’t you have gotten killed helping your good friend?” To this I answered: “Yeah...I guess that I surely could have...but actually I really didn’t much think on it because I could’ve been killed at any time during ugly war. Besides...I was more afraid of letting down my very good friends than I was of dying.”
He thought again for a bit then he told me: “Grampa...I don’t care what you say...to me you were a hero in that ugly old war.” I replied: “Thank you, grandson...I love you very much.” Inquisitive little brat, it seems he wasn’t quite satisfied.
He now asked me: “Grampa...did you march in a parade with all that paper coming down when you came home?” I replied: “No Grandson...there weren’t any parades when I came home.” He then asked: “Why not, Grampa?” I said: “Well, you see hun, that war that I fought in wasn’t a very popular war with the people back home here.” “In fact, when I came home I was ostracized.” “Do you know what ostracized means?” He replied: “No Grampa...what does ostracized mean?” Then I said: “Well...ostracized means like when you’re put down and teased and treated badly about who you are or what you’ve done.” “I was even spit on and called a baby killer and murderer by certain people.”
Then he said: “But why did they do that to you...Grampa?” “You didn’t do anything wrong.” I replied: “No Grandson...I don’t think I did anything wrong.” “If anyone did anything wrong it was our government at the time and I guess that the people of our society at the time was so frustrated that they took it out on us.” “This made me feel very bad and very embarrassed and for a very long time (about 20 years or so) I didn’t talk about it or even let anyone know that I was even a soldier.” Then he said: “Damn, Grampa that’s really sad.”
He thought about all this for a while then he said: “You know Grampa...you shouldn’t feel bad about being in that ugly war.” I replied: “Yeah...it’s taken a whole lot of years but now I’m extremely proud of my part in that ugly old war and I’m proud and honored to have served with such brave and honorable men as I did.”
Again he stopped and thought about it for a bit then he said: “Grampa...I don’t care what anybody says...I still think you’re the biggest and bestest hero I’ve ever known.” With tears in my eyes I said: “You know...you’re the bestest grandson any old trooper like me could ever want.”
Michael “MadMonk” Bradshaw
Former Sgt. E-5, E Co.-Recon
1st/ 501st Inf., 101st Airborne Div.