November 11, 2022 The Forgotten One
Brian’s feet were cold. He could feel the ground through the holes in the soles of his boots as he stood on the frozen ground.
He wished his soul didn’t feel so cold.
He watched the people walk by in their warm coats and new boots. They headed toward the cenotaph for their annual pretendance. He groaned inside, they claim it was remembrance but he called it pretendance. Brian combined the words in his mind, they pretend to remember but it is all some kind of an act. The older ones in the long coats, they remember, but the rest of them?
What a sham.
When he closed his eyes at night, Brian could still see the bodies in the rice fields. The horror of those days long ago still flittered in his mind. Memories still tainted his soul. His heart ached at the thought of his buddies who never came back from Vietnam.
Brian never recovered from the shock of those young days. When the war began he was merely seventeen. He couldn’t wait until his eighteenth birthday so he could sign up and join the fight, the fight against communism, against oppression.
What a joke.
No, it was worse than a joke, it was a tragedy of epic proportions.
Now here he was, a shell of the man he could have been. He’d been wandering lost for the last fifty years now. How could it be fifty? When he returned, he tried to become part of society, but society didn’t want him. He even got married but she couldn’t handle the nightmares. He could barely handle them, how could he expect anyone else to?
So he left his home country and came north to Canada. They called it the land of the free. What a farce that was. But was anywhere truly free? Brian would never be free of his demons.
So he crawled into a bottle and stayed there.
Life was bearable before the stupid pandemic came along. He had a small place in downtown Vancouver and he made due collecting bottles and panhandling from tourists. Some Americans even felt sorry for the veteran who sat lonely on Granville Street in the middle of the action.
But then came Covid and the tourists stopped coming. In the summer of 2021, he decided to try Kelowna, he’d heard it was a nice place and he wanted a fresh start.
The nightmares followed him wherever he went.
Did all these people standing in front of the war memorial have any idea what war was really about? The bombs, the guns, the death? And all the dead bodies of the children lying in the rice fields – an image he could never erase from his mind.
‘Lest we forget’ they say. How Brian wished he could forget.
His war was the forgotten one. No one was here to remember the veterans of all the other wars, it was all about WW1, WW2 and Korea. But what about those veterans still alive?
All Brian wanted was a new pair of boots. November 11 didn’t mean anything to him, except a stark reminder of a life he missed. A life he wished he could have back.