Netroots for the Troops needs diary writers for this week's fundraising blogathon - especially today and tomorrow. I wanted to help get out the word and spent a good chunk of time trying to decide how to approach writing this diary. Keep it light? Brief and impersonal? Lots of pooties, spin some tunes?
Now I love pooties and good music. But the heart of why I do anything for NFTT is always this - a PTSD disabled Viet Vet I call True Heart. The look on his face when war came for a younger generation. The worry and grief he's carried ever since we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. I wrote about him last year. With some changes, I've decided to share True Heart with you again. I hope you don't mind.
This morning he woke up again on the couch, as he always does. He hasn't spent the night in our bed, my bed, in a long time. It took the wise words of our god-daughter, someone who works with Veterans, to explain why. You see, he's still on guard. He's still protecting those he cares for from harm. The door to the house, to the outside world, is vulnerable to forces beyond his control.
It's a thin barrier. Just like the jungle canopy rising alongside the Perfume River in Vietnam. That wall of green couldn't stop the bullets or grenades that came streaking out towards his boats, his men. They were always his first priority.
He was their "old man on the river." They were getting off the planes in Nam, younger and younger. "Babies", he called them. Too young for what waited for them, as if age was any shield. They were why he signed up for a second tour. They were why he had to be escorted to the plane that would finally take him home when that tour ended. He wouldn't, couldn't, leave them behind.
He never has. They are why he sleeps on the couch. He'll never leave those he cares for defenseless again.
He is why I do what I can for Netroots for the Troops. I see him in the faces of our young men and women serving in Afghanistan. I see their future, one we hope to change. They deserve better than what True Heart has known. There were no care packages for him. There was no welcoming home. There was no understanding of the forever cost of war born by those who survive it.
This is the personal that shapes the political. So I write in honor of my "True Heart," a name I gave him years ago. He writes poetry. About Nam of course. But also about the children and grand babies, the way wood feels beneath his hands as he turns it into a pen, a wine stopper, a bowl, or a wind chime. He writes about Canyon Country in Utah and riding the river past stone walls millions of years old. He doesn't write about the song birds returning in the spring after a long, snow silenced, winter. He can't hear them singing up the day anymore. Nam took that as well.
The children and grand babies, the willow tree in the yard, the grain and color of wood, the stories of stone and water, are what keep him here. They pull him back from Nam again and again. Until sleep comes.
Right now there are soldiers serving in Afghanistan who are there because they won't leave their brothers and sisters in arms behind. Decades from now, someone will write about how they never did. How they sleep on the couch, guarding those they care for.
We can give them something easy and simple to share. Just some packages that let them know they aren't alone. Just some caring that might help them sleep a little better. Just a reminder, that danger isn't always on the other side of the door.
That is the most important thing we wrap inside each care package.
Will you please help?