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Page 51
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A Letter From My Soul, A Letter From My Heart

By Gregory Ross

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The Veteran, Volume 42, Number 1, Spring 2012, published "Prolonged Exposure Therapy," a piece I wrote about witnessing the shooting death of a young girl in the Philippine Islands shortly after returning from Sea Duty with the 7th Fleet on the Gun Line, a mile off the coast of Viet Nan. Years later I wrote these "letters" to "Matilda," the dead girl; to a Fleet Sailor who had just bought a knock off watch from a Bazaar vendor for $10 and "norx," an appropriately reptilian name for the Philippine constabulary who shot her in the back over the theft of the watch.

Letter to Matilda

I had to call you something besides "The Girl Killed A Few Feet From Me."

Dear Matilda,

I was going to start this letter with the words: "If you had lived, you would be...," but you did not live. You died a violent, disturbing, senseless death. Being an unwilling witness to your death was shocking, psychically grueling, especially for so worthless a reason. It has become clear your death was emotionally destructive not just because you were another human being and a child, but because it symbolized War: an inordinate amount of force used to destroy for a useless reason. Your death was a microcosm of the macrocosm of War.

I am Sorry you were killed so callously. I feel guilty even though we had no interactions that could have caused or prevented your death. Still, you haunt me. War stole my joy for life. I thought I could not go on living. These thoughts and feelings, while not banished, are no longer overpowering. Now I smile and enjoy watching children in the world. I will never forget you, but I have to let you go. Your death was the head of the long, sharp nail of War that pierced my soul. I strive for peace of mind. Where ever your essence may be; I wish you peace.

Letter to a Fleet Sailor

Dear Fleet Sailor,

If you are still alive, I hope you are sane and sober. If you are alive, sane, sober, I know you have sought help. I wish you peace of mind. May you or your offspring never live within a War again.

Wishing you Peace,
Another sailor
Another casualty of War
Another brother harmed.

(I refuse to capitalize, punctuate or normalize anything to do with "norx")

letter to norx i will never stop hating you never be able to see you as human you will always be reptilian delayed of evolution spiritually deficient stunted of humanity atavistic savage stupid lazy cowardly alien you could have done anything besides shoot her you could have let her go you could have chased her figured out how to catch her you could have let her go you did not have to shoot her in the back you could have let her go you could have let her live you could have spared me her death you could have spared me the scars of her death you could have let her go you could have let her live you could have spared me i will never stop suffering rage i can never stop hating you.

Gregory Ross was in the Navy, Vietnam; 7th Fleet, Gun Line [1969]. Published in anthology: "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace," editor, Maxine Hong Kingston

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