I took my five year old grandson to school today. Usually we practice spelling on the way or adding and subtracting and sometimes play “I spy, with my little blue eyes, something that starts with the letter …” After I dropped him off I stopped at a table in the breeze way where a collection of moms had gathered. There was a sign up sheet for an auction and as the mothers chatted away I interrupted and asked what was being auctioned. There was a shuffling of comments before one mother said, “There’s fishing trips, hunting and uh… do you do guns?” The comment stopped me for a moment and made me hesitate before I replied, “I used to in Vietnam.” For some reason everyone laughed uneasily. The woman who asked the question was nervous now and went on to explain that there would be some sort of electronic simulation of firing guns. “There are no bullets, she said but you still get the recoil.”
I took a flyer and thanked them and on the way home I wondered about the laughter. Then I realized its been 45 years since I carried a rifle as a Marine in Vietnam. For years I had missed the recoil, and the feel of carrying a weapon, and all these years later, the only thing I ever hunted was other men.
When I came home I took off my hat and placed it on the kitchen table. It was my black baseball hat. On the crown is a stitched on Purple Heart and gold lettering that reads. “Combat Wounded.”