Tending to a wounded soldier in Viet Nam
I Did My Best That Day
© James J. Alonzo
I did my best that day…I held him in my arms like a father would hold his new born son, proud and yet afraid. I was afraid he was going to die before the medics arrived, before I had a chance to tell him what he needed to hear. He looked up at me and tried to smile through the pain, trusting me, believing in my ability, my strength, believing that I could carry him to safety. I lied to him. I told him fairy tales, not able to tell him the truth.
He looked at me and listened to my every word, his eyes filled with wonder and hope, like he was innocent and pure, like a child. A child cradled in the arms of weakness, doubt, swaddled in trembling fear and desperation. His eyes closed slowly, and his arm slipped off my shoulder. It hung limp and lifeless at my side. His body, draped over my arms like a green bloody shroud, relaxed and rested, now shed of it’s bone tired weariness and final fear. He was now asleep, peaceful, eternal sleep, no longer troubled by thoughts of war, the fear of death.
I lowered him on the ground in a soft bed of blood red dirt. I removed my flak jacket and placed it under his lifeless head for comfort. I pulled out my canteen from my belt, unscrewed the cap and poured water over my fingers. I touched his eyes, hands, and boots with my wet fingers, mumbling a simple prayer,
“God, I give up to you this innocent child !”
…My arms are tired, he was too heavy for me to carry..
“Forgive this man and take him to his final resting place beside you, dear Lord.”
I scooped up a handful of dirt in my hand, and sprinkled it over his body, burying him deep in my memory, searing my soul with his face.
Like me, he is just 18, alone and frightened,,,afraid of dying. That fear is now over. A voice called bringing me to the present, and I quickly pick up my weapon and run for cover. This was the best I could do that day.