A new guy came aboard the YRBM-17, the river repair boat barge I was stationed on in Dong Tam. He had a far off look in his eyes and a countenance that said hed been to Hell and back. He stuck out like a sore thumb. Like most of us, he was barely out of high school, but you wouldnt know it. A frown was permanently etched into his face, he socialized with no one during off duty hours, and rarely spoke. When he did, it was in a low growl. Chronologically a teenager, he was an old man, a spent shell void of life, hope, and joy. It was a sad sight, something none of us could relate to. It didnt take a psychologist to figure out that our new shipmate was a time bomb waiting. to explode. He was only with us a month and then reassigned. We never saw nor heard from him again. I asked him before he left what was bothering him. He told me he and some shipmates were walking through a village a few months prior when a nine year old Vietnamese girl charged at them with a live grenade. It was kill or be killed. He shot her dead with his M-16 automatic rifle, an event that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Copyright Robert D. Wilson, 2003