Piece for Memorial Day 2001
[lights up on soldier seated against nearly shattered wall, with pen and paper. He is dressed for combat in WW2, rifle nearby, canteen, etc. He picks up a nearby Nazi helmet and begins to write a letter]
Soldier: (speaking as he writes) Ma, Im writing to you now from somewhere near the front. Its quiet now, and I have a chance to put down some words, but I dont know if you will get them. Its May 25th, and thats your birthday. Wanted you to know I didnt forget, what with all thats going on. I love you. And I miss you.
I wont lie to you, the fightings been hard. Real hard. Today we linked up with the 2nd Corps. The weird thing is here we are in Italy and Ive fought nothing but Germans the whole time it seems like, but were pushing toward Rome and I bet we see some Eye-Talians then.
I cant hardly describe the battles, Ma. You gotta be there. But you should pray to God how glad you are you aint. I think the only way you could describe war to somebody who never was there was to take a gun and shoot them in the belly and say, "Thats war, pal. How do you like it?"
I dont like it for beans.
When we come up on Anzio they say there were 45,000 Nazis on a front of about 1,000 yards. Three divisions. After a while you didnt touch the ground when you walked, you walked on a carpet of bodies. Ma, I never seen so many bodies as was on that field.
Thousands and thousands and thousands of bodies. Dead guys, just like yourself except theyre dead and you aint. Theyre stacked up like wood. Some of them rolling in water, some hollering for their wives, mothers....some of them just wanting a living person to sit there with em while they die, so that a blown apart corpse aint the last thing they see in this world.
But you cant sit, you gotta keep moving forward. Forward.
In the movies its all these guys walking around with clean uniforms and big smiles saying "Yeah, I killed that guy and did you see how I killed that other guy?" Well, killing a guy aint what is exactly something you celebrate in a bar over a beer.
Most of the time, you dont know if you killed the guy or not, you just figure you have when they stop shooing back at you but other times....we took these prisoners, you know?
About three guys in a machine gun nest. This corporal says to me, "take these men back to headquarters" but there aint no headquarters. But I got ordered to deal with them so I had to feed them and give them water and keep an eye on themm me and my buddy Richie. He got stuck because he can speak kraut. I was so goddam mad at these guys, like they were personally responsible for all the bodies Id tagged that I didnt want to watch them or take them anyplace.
Then we got our orders to move on forward again, and since there wasnt anyplace to take these prisoners to, there was only one thing to do with them. A sergeant come by and says to Richie, "Kill them fuckers, were moving out." He didnt stick around, he just kept walking and smoking his Lucky Strike. Richie just stood there staring at me, and them prisoners maybe didnt speak english but they knew what was coming because they started talking a mile a minute to Richie.
I says, "Richie, you gotta kill them."
He says, "I cant."
I says, "Why the Hell not?"
He says, "Because I can understand everything theyre saying."
"Bullshit" I said, and I let one of them have it.
That was the first time I ever saw the face of somebody I killed.
The other ones were yelling at me now. I dont know much kraut, but I could tell they were begging me not to kill them. But I did. I killed every last one of them.
And Richie was crying. I dont know why, Ma, but that made me madder than anything and I swear to God I almost turned around and shot him too.
Ma, I didnt feel good about it. I didnt feel bad about it. I didnt feel nothing until Richie started to cry and then all I was madder than hell. I think maybe I was mad because he could still feel something after everything we done since we got to Italy, and I couldnt.
I dont ask myself what Im doing here, maybe I should. I dont think about making the world safe for democracy or anything else. I think about not getting myself killed and keeping that one thought in front of me maybe makes it easier to do some pretty damned evil shit. Like Im just one zombie in a great big goddam army of zombies.
Sure, I live in a great country--sure I love my country...and if we can get this one ended I hope we never have no more wars at all.....
[Long pause. Soldier wads up the letter and throws it away.]
Maybe what she dont know wont hurt me.
[lights out]"Piece for Memorial Day 2001" IS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL AND MAY NOT BE DOWNLOADED, TRANSMITTED, PRINTED OR PERFORMED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR