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By Jack Mallory
I wrote this almost 10 years ago.
I sit here, looking up at the shelves with my 200 and some books on Vietnam, many others on other wars, war in general. All of Fussell is up there, O'Brien, Herr, Macpherson, Shay. Even starting to list them gives me a feeling of futility. I have read them all, some multiple times.
Once I quit drinking, started dealing with PTSD, I had to force myself to stop obsessing about the war, trying to figure it out, make sense of it. Maybe it would be better to say that now I CAN stop obsessing, figuring, making sense. I can't put it completely aside, but once I abandoned making sense out of it, that helped. I'm not responsible for figuring it out; I was there, I did what I did. What I have to be proud of, I'm proud of; what I have to be ashamed of, I'm ashamed of. I can't change it, it's done, it's over. When the opportunity to take action occurs, to tell what I know, I do that.
I know that it makes little difference, but I have done it since I got back from Vietnam, around every war we've had since. I've done what my dad and his generation didn't do: I've told my kids the details, what it's really like. Maybe that will make a difference someday. Maybe it won't.
Phil Caputo has processed his war, and written about it, as well as anyone possibly could. He summed it up for many of us:
"Sometimes, events that are bewildering while we're living them acquire meaning in retrospect, but the more the Vietnam war recedes into the past, the more senseless it becomes to me . . ."
I can live with that, now.
Jack Mallory is a long-time VVAW member. He served in Vietnam 69-70 and joined VVAW in 1970.
He's also an archaeologist, an educator, and a dad. Like Superman, fighting for truth, justice, and his own version of the American way. He won't claim to be winning, but WTF else can he do?