ODE TO WILLIE THE WHALE
BY FLYING JOHN
We stayed on 32nd Street, kids wild and crazy then. With Bill McVey and forty guys, we called each other friend.
For Vinny's name was Bean you know, Bill we called the Whale, and Eddy we called Mr. G, but that's another tale.
We found our share of mischief then, it was abundant on the scene. For in Brooklyn it wasn't hard you know, especially for a teen.
One day events turned serious, we were all going off to war. A friend got beat up in Carnarsie, and we had to settle that score.
A battle would take place, on Avenue L, at 3PM that day. A fight to the death for all involved, let no man run away.
So with guns and knives and nasty things, we shook in great alarm. Till the Whale came forth with common sense, and kept us all from harm.
"Let your toughest guy meet our toughest guy, in this circle as we stand. Let them fight with fists, till one man quits, and end this thing at hand."
And so that day many lives were saved, and a war was put to end. And every kid who stood there scared, called Bill McVey his friend.
Time passed, I joined the Army, but that's different tale. So let me tell you more about, the good friend I call Whale.
Ten years went by when next we met, over a beer in his front yard. With friends we talked of days gone by, but nothing deep or hard.
We parted company once again, with no mention made of gloom. When next we met, five years had passed, in Richie Black's front room.
For Bill had bought Richie's house, renovation now his trade. He came to plan and look about, at the purchase he had made.
We talked about the good old days, with a laugh, a smile, and a sigh. Then Bill opened up his wallet you see, and his picture caught my eye.
I said to Bill, "Is that you Whale, in your uniform so smart?" He said, "Yeah," I asked again, "Is that a Purple Heart?"
For upon his chest was an Air Medal, Bronze Star, and CIB. They rest atop of two more rows, of medals to hard to see.
For there's a rule you know for those betrayed, who served their country well. Say nothing to those who stayed behind, for it's they who've made our hell.
"I was lucky, Whale", I said to Bill, with guilt and little tact. For I got out in '66, and me they welcomed back.
To get a job was easy then, I only had to say, I served my time, and now I'm back, and my draft status, it's 4A".
"That makes me happy, John, he smiled, and I mean that from my heart. For what they did to us poor souls, really tore our lives apart."
"For in '67, I left for war, like you had done before. I owed it to our veterans, who fought our other wars.
Thirty missions I had in eleven months, with twenty seven hot. While on TV they told our folks, your kids are high on pot."
"Good guys died there fighting hard, for those back home and God. Then I left the field on a stretcher one day, but didn't think it odd.
Till a Captain said, `Go home, my boy, but one thing keep in mind. Don't wear your uniform on that plane, for folks back home ain't kind.'"
`There are those back there who've filled the air, with lies to mask their shame. Those cowards twisted truth you know, and made us all to blame.'"
"I thought for sure he was kidding, so I laughed a lot that day. For after all I was going home, and I knew what folks would say."
"I had felt the terror, pain and bled, I was proud of what we done. I knew they knew it was all for them, all those victories we had won."
"No parades I'd say, I'm not up to it, no ceremonies to honor my deeds. Just a simply thank you will do the trick, and satisfy my needs."
"But it never came, they turned their backs, and never said a word. Only there ain't no work for you, my boy, I guess you just ain't heard."
`You Viet Vets, you're all the same, your crazy, mean and cruel. We've saw it on TV you know, and teach it in our school.'
"Hard times I had for two years or more, no work, no hope, no break. Then I got a job at SUNY one day, with a ladder, some tools and a rake."
"The pay was fair, the hours good, my life seemed back on track. Then I entered a classroom one faithful day, and there I was attacked."
"I had worn my fatigue shirt, with CIB, and Red One combat patch. I took my ladder to the window, climbed up and fixed the latch."
`Is that your shirt?', the teacher yelled, in a voice real loud and snide. I said, "Yeah, it's my shirt, okay, I've worn it with pride."
"She screamed, `I want you out of here, you baby burning creep.' I looked at her, then blurted out, `Lady, what's your beef?'"
`I know the evil things you've done, I've seen them on TV. The bodies strewn on the ground, those innocent VC.'
`You seem to know an awful lot, so pardon my ignorance Mam. Just one question may I ask, were you in Viet Nam?'
`You don't have to experience things, she said, to know them inside out.' I said, `If you ain't been there, Mam, then you ought to shut your mouth.'"
"So I left the classroom graciously, and went off on my route. Then at five o'clock they fired me, took my tools, and said, `Get out!'"
`I don't think you were wrong, my boss told me, but there's nothing I can do. They told me, Bill, I either let you go, or my replacement will fire you.'
"It took some time to get new work, but this lesson I had learned. Don't ever mention your Army days, or those medals you have earned."
"I've done alright since then you see, I'm successful, so it's okay. For I put the past where it belongs, and look forward to each new day."
"So let us talk about different things, and get ourselves a beer. For I'm not the only one you know, who's paid this price so dear."
So we chatted on for an hour or two, then parted once again. He's still the same old Willie the Whale, the modest man I call friend.
So when you seek to place the shame, of injustice upon our land. For past treatment of Blacks, and Indians, and other good folk at hand.
Remember too, that they served well, with honor and valor so grand. And add to your list, the Willie the Whales, for their bravery in Vietnam.
- - COPYRIGHT:jvm94