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The Veteran


At a National Cemetery soewhere in the Western U.S. when the light of day is just breaking out from the darkness of night, highlighting the tops of grave markers through the mist of the cool morning air. A lone figure is making his way through the head stones, suddenly he stops, bends down and picks up a small fallen American Flag, pushes it back into the ground steps back and does a slow hand salute, then continues on his way.
He's wearing an old military field jacket, a backpack filled with all his processions, a pair of camouflaged trousers that have seen better days, an old worn out hat that says Vietnam Veteran, his hair is uncombed, uncut and unkept, and so to his salt and pepper beard. As he walks between the head stones he reaches in his pocket and comes out with a tattered piece of paper, written on it is, Plot D Row 16 Grave 11. Now at grave 11 he takes a deep breath, then takes a knee, runs his fingers over his friends name as his eyes fill with tears. He takes off his pack
reaches deep inside and comes out with a purple felt box, inside a purple heart medal and ribbon and a note, "I will never forget" and places it at the
base of the head stone. Three month ago he did the samething at the Wall in D.C. under the panel where his friends name appears.
It's taken him three months to get here, by any means he could, mostly by foot. In reality this journey started decades ago, in the jungles of Vietnam. And at least a decade for him to finally fall pray to the demons that now haunt is soul. Nightmares, flashbacks, anger, and hypervigilance are his constant companions, and the only friend he has left is alcohol.
Now he says a small prayer for his friend and himself, stands up snaps to attention and gives a slow hand salute. Picks up his pack and with tears
streaming down his face, he heads out of the cemetery where he will either get the long overdo help, or blend in with the nearly 200.000 homeless veterans roaming America.

Bruce Knipp

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