Born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950 Reborn in Vietnam, U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division Dodge City, Arizona, Charlie Ridge, Happy Valley, M-60 Machine Gunner and Grunt, 1969
From the Artist:
For years I have lived with the pleading screams of dying boys denied the fortune to age into men. The sounds of them crying for God and begging for their mothers have become stronger as I have grown older. It is ironic that as my hearing ability has diminished with age, those silent sounds have become louder and clearer. As I listened to those voices, I eventually accepted the fact that I would have to continue my journey into the realm of the warrior and that I would have no choice but to live in that other dimension just as those before me had. Along with the echoes of the past came the conscious mental battle of current times: questioning myself about whether I tried hard enough to answer their pleas. My answer to myself was only to resolve never again. At times when I am working out, running, and I reach a threshold of pain, I break through it by imagining that I am running toward their screams, but this time I will not fail.
There was a time, actually a long time in my life, when I buried my deepest feelings somewhere in the ocean of my mind. I did not want to feel or see myself. I was afraid of what I would feel inside, afraid to reexperience the horrors, to relive the violence that I was capable of. I became a Spartan, not allowing myself pleasure although going out of my way to help others. To do otherwise, I felt, would weaken me. Looking back, I see that was very selfish.
It seems forever that my mind has been sharing space with the memories of my fallen brothers and the what ifs. If permitted to live, what else would they have bestowed on society? More than me; certainly more than those who chose to not go then because of moral conviction, but now hide their guilt behind those and other false stories of why not. Because I know fear, I do feel sorry for those who hid behind theirs, but I cannot forgive them. That they must seek from themselves and from the dead. Over the years the dead have watched me, and as I felt their eyes, I vowed I would bear this standard, that I would live my life in such a way as to honor them and their sacrifice. When weakened all I would do was recall the looks on their faces—which mirrored the way they died—how dirty their bodies were, and that they had perished in hell. I could not understand why their surroundings did not fit the ceremony of their deaths. Now I know why I was wrong.
I would also wonder why they were denied the experience of the love of a woman or the birth of a child when they more than anyone else had earned the right to these pleasures.
We lived with those who had the least but shared the most—water, letters, pictures, cigarettes, fear, the safety of the morning sun, the next breath of air, honor, and the idea that you were then, and are now, nothing more than your word.
At the times and places of their deaths, we gathered and looked at their bodies, perhaps envying them but not really wanting to join them. There was a strangeness about them beyond their deaths, in that their souls did not want to leave, but to stay, to protect and guide us away from the same destination. They did stay and by their deaths did heighten my senses, letting me know when harm was near. There was a trade-off; the payment...losing the sensitivity essential for a peaceful soul. Most eventually left me, leaving faces without names, names without faces, voices stirring emotions.
In conclusion of the beginning and the start of the end, we were all at the places where their souls left their bodies. There is now a place that has been created that permits the spirits of our fallen warrior brothers to gather. In this place the spirits of the dead shall awaken the souls of the living. I have been there and have felt their presence in greater numbers than in any other place. I thank them and I welcome the beginning of the journey toward peace.