Sunday, March 10, 2002
Sometimes you just have to cry
By MARY JANE HOLT
"She said, 'I bet I know what movie you are here to see,' and I told her and she said, 'I was right.'
And I asked how did she know and said she'd read a review in the paper that day about the movie and how theaters could expect an influx of pot-bellied old men and sure enough there had been a stream of potbellied old men all afternoon buying tickets to see "We Were Soldiers."
The movie is based on "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young" by West Point grad, Vietnam vet, Georgia native, and retired general Harold Moore.
I couldn't tell just what my husband was thinking about the remarks from the woman in the window. I knew I was thinking that 56 is not old (especially since I'm not too far behind him) and that my husband is not pot-bellied. Nevertheless her remarks laid the groundwork for some humor we created for ourselves as the evening wore on.
God knows we (I) needed something to laugh at. "We Were Soldiers" was not funny. It was far too realistic. The film stirred within me a wide range of emotions and humor was no where near the top ten, though I did laugh once.
I think I was the only person in the theater who laughed at a line tossed by Sam Elliott's character to a battlefield survivor. Elliott, Mel Gibson and others delivered stellar performances in their roles.
I made up for my laughter though, because at the end of the film, I was crying harder than anybody in the building.
I was crying because we never honored them when they needed us. Sure, we built a wall later. And we all talk about it. We refer to it with too much ease anytime we want to try to soothe our consciences.
So what if it was never a "real war?" What if Washington and most of the country could not even agree whether we should even be over there.
Damn it, we were there. Our men and boys were there. Whether we were all in agreement or not they were there, representing us. And more than 50,000 died. And many of those who did not die came back to a country embarrassed, or too busy to be bothered by the sight of their damaged bodies and minds.
I'm one of the lucky ones. At least, my husband is and because he is, I am and so is my family. You see, he started to grow up in Vietnam. I say started because he's still growing. We both are.
Some folks got their growth stunted over there. They came home unable to move forward. Stuck in some kind of warped time zone in which they gave all they knew how to give to/for countries that did not appreciate their sacrifice.
I sat there wondering how long sentiment would stay with our guys now. At least today's soldiers know the dignity of having what they are involved in labeled as war.
Did I say dignity? Dignity of war ... how sad.
There were many reasons I could not stop crying at the end of "We Were Soldiers." I was crying for soldiers everywhere who follow leaders of the day to their assigned battlefields. Unknowing soldiers who are pawns in the game of war. A game we as the human race have become far too adept at playing. A game played since the beginning of time. A game that will not soon end.
I was crying because there were guys back in the late '60s that I would have kissed goodbye a bit more fervently if I had only known what lay ahead of them.
I was crying because I have never been to the wall to touch their names, names of men who never married, who never had children, who never got the chance to grow up in Vietnam or back home in the country that sent them to fight a war nobody ever understood, assuming there are wars that anybody ever understands.
I was crying for the sickness behind the claims we all make in the name of God. I sat there wondering where was God and who is God and how he must feel about being used as the biggest pawn of all.
I had reasons to cry so I cried.
As we exited the theater, I put my arm around a waist that may be a little bigger than it was 30 years ago. I'll give the reviewer that, but I sure hope that film makes viewers think about something besides how fat the survivors have become over the years.
As best I recall, it was the first time I had ever really cried for those who did not survive.