national boomerang
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if I were in Vietnam

my kill

declaimed poetry

distant lover
my father reading marx for the first time
first in - last out

The son of a Vietnam vet visits a memorial.


Pussies. It's funny what you think about at a memorial. I was thinking of pussies. Or anyway, that's what my dad calls them, guys his age who because of luck or resistance, class or just circumstances, never found themselves in Vietnam. I was thinking, I wonder how many pussies are here today and how many have visited this memorial since its dedication? I was trying to imagine what they'd feel like in a place like this. It's one thing to visit a memorial that's dedicated to a generation you don't belong to, but it's probably quite another to visit one that could've easily been inscribed with you own name.

And then I thought, if I were in Vietnam I'd be a Marine like my dad was. He was drafted and did his boot camp at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot in San Diego and was deployed to Vietnam in the summer of 1968. He survived a thirteen month combat tour with the 60mm mortars of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Division. I think I'd want to be in the same company as he was but I'd be a grunt for sure. And I'd want to get there before him, just in time for the first wave of the Tet Offensive.

Today, if I ask him, sometimes he tells me about the war. But it's always the same stories, as if I never heard them before. And no matter how many times I hear them, they never make it any easier to imagine. You hate to admit it sometimes, but I guess it's right what they say, you had to be there. I don't know if I'd make it, but if I survived long enough, maybe I'd actually meet my dad in the bush, maybe we'd even be buddies. But then it occurred to me that I'd want to do my boot camp at Paris Island. And then I thought of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. I'd probably seen that movie a hundred times by the third grade. I used to act-out my favorite scenes in the backyard. And I still have dreams that I'm in Vietnam, but I'm not sure where they come from, either all the movies I watched, or all the stories I heard my dad tell. It's probably a little of both.

I'd like to think that if I were in a Vietnam I'd be good looking, that I'd be good looking and smart, ironic, but down to earth, that I'd get letters from my girlfriend back home, and that I'd write my grandmother every day. But sometimes, I think I'd be one of those guys that just don’t give a shit, that seem to embody some kind of a death drive, that appear mad with hostility, that come to represent the most horrifying possibilities of war--some kind of a bad ass. But more than likely I'd be like this guy behind the camera. You don't see too many bad asses wearing glasses, and he's got a nice receding hairline like me too.

Still, I don't know if I'd make it. But if I think about it, and I've thought about it, if I had to die in Vietnam, I think I'd get shot, and chances are I'd bleed to death, slowly. I'd watch my short life flash before my eyes, I'd meditate on the impending doom of my own nonexistence, and I’d use the dramatic stage that such a death would hopefully provide to compose my final thoughts, to deliver my last words, and to draw my last breath. But I often have to remind myself that I wasn't in this war and I that didn't die in it. I'm just the son of a Vietnam Vet, who years from now, will just be another pussy visiting a memorial.

If I Were In Vietnam, 2010, video, 9:50

If I Were In Vietnam is now featured on Dave Rabbit's
Radio First Termer. Radio First Termer was a pirate radio station which operated in January 1971 and was broadcast from a secret brothel in Saigon during the Vietnam War. The station was hosted by a United States Air Force sergeant calling himself "Dave Rabbit." The station broadcasted for 63 hours over 21 nights (between the 1st and 21st of January 1971). Today, "Dave Rabbit" continues to broadcast for the troops serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan through the podcast versions of both Radio First Termer Iraq and Afghanistan.