“We value things only when they are gone. Far away from us. Holding a pen and writing some words, you never realise how valuable is this simple ability until your hands are too shaky from ageing to write a few legible words. It’s been 44 years today, that unforgettable day. They say one moment has the power to change your whole life, it was that kind moment.
When we have no people left to love, we fall in love with material things, that’s human nature. We are made to love, we will find something to love anyhow. I fell in love with my diary, when that’s the only thing that was left in my life.
It was 1969, was destiny’s play I guess. Rod entered military service in the same batch as I did, we joined the same corps, and then we were sent to Vietnam, again with each other, on the same B-52. Two months into the war-zone and it wasn’t looking that tough. We were briefed about probable enemy hide-outs every day and we just had to storm through those areas clearing bunch of those raving rowdies.
Just another day, we jumped out from our choppers, took cover, and then it started. A fucking jungle, we were too heavily armed for those chimps, but then they were hiding. I targeted that makeshift house they made out of hay with grenade launchers, Rod was just around me providing cover. That grenade just blew that whole shit, they were 20 of those hiding behind. I could see some 4-5 enemies all ripped apart, now left were a little more than a dozen of easy targets without any cover for them, but two of them had rifles. I asked Rod to take on those two. I started taking down the others one by one. It was like game hunting for me, I was killing for fun. When serious jobs turn into fun, caution is the first thing that goes away.
Rod shouted “Brooks, throw me a bullet cartridge! Outta them” while he crouched. “Just a second, look at that motherfucker running like he will get away from me!” I replied as I positioned myself to take another fun shot. I kept firing, just 3-4 of them left, 2 of those with AKs still lurking around. Rod was still down, I realised I forgot passing the bullets. I opened my supply, took the bullet case out and before I could think of anything I was blown feets away. They threw grenades at us, those two men with AKs. My head struck a tree, It did hurt, like real bad. I tried laying down to camo myself from incoming fire. When the dust settled I looked at the spot where Rodney and I were standing before grenades threw us away.
Pain? Pain is relative. The physical pain which seemed unbearable a second back now seemed nothing, because now I had to witness the pain of my best friend dying infront me. He was barely recognizable, I wonder how he was still alive and growling in pain. Shrapnels stinging his flesh, his internals blown out of his abdomen. A stream of spurting blood had made most of the soil around him a shade of red.
I knew he was gone, his painful growl had stopped suddenly. I rolled over and picked up my Colt rifle and opened fire. Sometimes you don’t know what to feel, angry, sad or repenting, it was that moment. Killed them, kept firing even when they were dead, it was anger. Or maybe it was my conscience, trying to make up for what had I failed to do, save my best friend’s life.
“Rodney Holyfield” read his dog-tag, a martyr. I saw his girlfriend crying, I never felt so guilty in my life. I could tell myself that it was accidental and move on, but I knew it. If I would have passed those bullets to him, this tragedy could have been averted. It was my fault.
Some things are hard to get over, and some things never let you get over them. Everytime I went out in the field, I held a gun, I donned my uniform, all I could see and think of was that one moment, which could have saved him. They referred me to the psychologist they had at the base, I wish he could have helped me. Now, I was really not even a fraction of soldier I used to be. I had no mind, because it was busy trying to reverse that scenario whenever it was supposed to think. They discharged me from services.
Anne was my childhood sweetheart. I don’t know when it started, but sometimes I feel I was always in love with her from the time I saw her as a 6 year old. We got married in 1966, and then Jake was born next year. My psychologist says I have lost a lot of memory, I thank my brain that it still remembers my wife and kid. I came back home after they discharged me from services. She tried hard, she never really gave up but I wasn’t the person she fell in love with anymore. I was a man with just one regret stuck all over his mind. A dysfunctional specimen of regrets. Whatever I used to say, had stopped making sense. I just stared into oblivion all day, a mind so entangled and heavy that it nearly stopped working.
She had her full life infront of her, I will never blame it on her. She is still my love, the best mother and wife. One day, she left with Jake, she had to. There was no way a sane person would stay with someone like me. Sometimes I wonder where they are, Jake must have grown up to be a handsome man.
Been on state support and my pension since then. People recommended drugs, just to ward off those thoughts that didn’t let me live. But they made it even worse, the nightmares became even scarier, mind even more webbed. I still sit, and think how that one second changed everything. This loneliness, when walls start talking, when your cries echo back to your old ears because there is no one to listen, when you wish that you don’t see the morning sun the next day and die in your sleep.
I am coming Rodney.”
I found this on his table, when I finally found my father. “We value things only when they are gone. Far away from us” I got too late, hours before I found him, he decided he couldnt take it anymore. Wish you knew dad, it has been years I have tried finding you, mom still missed you, wish we could meet and you could see your brave son. You will always be in our memories. Dad.
– Colonel Jacob ‘Jake’ Brooks