By Delbert Gantsy III, a Korean War Veteran
Now listen up, you bunch of shit-flinging monkeys. I am tired of hearing caterwauling about how slowly I back out of my space at the Post Exchange. I’m not about to claim that it isn’t true. What I am saying is this: I earned the right to back out in the manner and speed of my choosing, and to do so without hearing a bunch of unblooded virgins mewl about it.
You’re, what, in your twenties? You know what I was doing when I was your age? I was sucking muddy ice off the lip of my foxhole on Hill 264 because I’d run out of water the morning before, and had already drank all my dead buddies’ canteens dry. My commander and platoon leader were both dead, my platoon sergeant had been put on an ambulance with half his leg and ass blown off, and they had made my buddy Joe the acting company commander.
The Topkick was nowhere to be seen, and two days later, after the Big Red One relieved us, we found his body with fourteen slugs and a bayonet in him, his .45 fired dry, surrounded by about a dozen dead slants. We got our first hot meal in two weeks that night (Shit On A Shingle), and I only found a few grubs in it, which was nice. Got some hot coffee too, only on its second brew, and even got to smoke a couple of tailor-mades. A couple of days later we even snuck into the brigade HQ showers and got our first hot water since we’d left Uijeongbu.
That was my life. Over and over for months. Take that hill, hold it, watch your friends die, and then scrounge their food and water and bullets. We had no “Rip-It,” no bootleg Vincent Diesel movies we bought from ragheads, and the closest you got to smelling a white woman’s quim was getting your arm blown off and going to meet the hospital nurses.
Except for a couple days in Tokyo for A&A (Ass & Alcohol) every few months, it was a living hell. (Although even A&A could be dangerous. I almost got picked up by MPs after a mama-san called them on Joe when he wouldn’t pay for a rub and tug. We had to jump out the third-floor window in our skivvies.) All my buddies dying, freezing cold every night, and to this day I have more shrapnel in me than hairs left on my head. You name a hill in Korea and a body part, and I’ve taken flak on it, in it.
And I don’t complain. I just want to wear my prescription orthopedic shoes, read Tony Hillerman westerns, watch Matlock, and play with my grandkids. But one thing I won’t tolerate is a bunch of mouth-breathing ninnies jawjacking about the way I go about my day. You know nothing of hardship. You go off to quote-unquote ‘war’ and sit around in air-conditioned hardstand buildings with phones and internet and hot food every meal. You’ve got women right in your “combat” units to screw.
Even you dogfaces out on “patrol,” it’s, what, a six or eight hour stroll where some starving A-rab kid might take a potshot at you? And then you’re back on your “FOB” sucking up sodas and hot grub. Well, my “patrols” were called advances, where we took actual dirt ground from the slopes, unlike you idiots who can’t even hold flat desert ground with the best army in human history. And my advances lasted for weeks at a time, and when we were relieved, we were about half a unit light because all our buddies were dead or hurt.
So I’ve earned my slowness. I’ll take my goddamn time because I paid for it with my blood and my tears and the sheer unholy terror that none of you have ever known. You titty-pink punks aren’t worthy to call yourself veterans. How dare you have the gall to question a real veteran.
And in addition to backing my enormous Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra out of my spot slowly, I have first taken five whole minutes to put my wife’s walker in the trunk. And this bothers you? Apparently it does, because I can see your mouth move as you mutter your insolent nonsense griping, safely behind your windshield. I’ll take my time helping that woman as long as I want to, because she used to be the prettiest girl in Harlan County, and she was giving my tacklebox the old hey-ho before your dads were even out of diapers.
Even after all the whoring and drinking on A&A, even with all the screaming nightmares I was waking up from, she took my sorry shot-up ass back after I got home, made me whole again, fucked me like a buzzsaw and gave me the best five kids who ever lived. Except for Sonnie, who now votes Democrat. He’s not welcome at Thanksgiving anymore. Where was I?
Ah: so shut up your ragbox, or I’ll pull you out of your cars and kick you in the piles.
So to wrap up: You may find yourself behind me as I’m at the register looking for exact change for my Old Spice, pocketknife oil, pipe tobacco, or denture cream. You may get stuck while I decrypt the incomprehensible cipher up on the digital screen at the post pharmacy. You may even have to wait a few minutes to vulture my parking space as I back my gunboat-sized 70s-era sedan out of it. I was your age once, and I remember the WWI vets back then being old and slow. But you better do what I did — Suck it up, keep your stupid ignorant flycatcher shut, and just wait for me to do my business.
Because I swear, if I see one more of you young wastes-of-socks say something under your breath, or roll your eyes … I will call up my old unit, what’s left of them, and we will seize that Goddam PX before you can say Pennsylvania-Six-Five-Thousand. We’ll show you the exact same love we showed those screaming slope-eyed zipperheads when we were your age.
I pray to the God I abandoned, and then found again, on Hill 264: please, one of you, just try me.