I sat with him in a Chicago tavern.
He was an old warrior, a marine, Vietnam.
He did his tour.
He re-upped for one more.
He told me it was the nights,
that were the worst.
There was too much time to think.
He tried not to think about home.
He just thought about how many days,
he had left, "in country".
He kept a count, on each of his tours.
He always got nervous with short time.
One night, he dug in.
It was dark in the jungle.
His platoon had just been in a fire-fight.
Now, he was a short-timer on his second tour.
He just received his sergeant stripes.
He found himself next to a nervous kid.
He tried to settle him down.
He asked: "Where you from back home, son?"
The kid replied, "Mississippi".
The warrior laughed, and said:
"Shit boy, you're better-off here!"
The young recruit laughed.
Then the warrior, checked on the rest of his platoon.
He told me: "These little guys in black pajamas,
who we were fighting, didn't even know what
communism was. They fought the Chinese, the Japanese,
the French, then us.
They're gonna' be there a long time, after we're gone."
Then he came back to the present in his mind and told me:
"Whether it's the jungle, the desert, or somewhere else,
it doesn't make any difference, War doesn't change
the minds of men, who firmly hold on to their beliefs."
In the end we are all broken.
"When you see the murders of children,
the men you love,
or your enemy,
you lose something inside of yourself.
I spent my whole life trying to get "it" back.
But "it's" gone forever."
We hugged, and said goodbye.