Discussion in 'Vietnam Stories: By John H. Wilborn' started by Guest, Feb 26, 2003.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

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    (12/10/01 5:33:02 am)
    Reply THE OLD MAN
    A major networks camera panned slowly around and through the assembled crowd of
    people. Colorful scenes of landscape, seascape, and early morning mists hanging
    over the lush Hawaiian landmarks. Scattered through the milling crowd were many
    military uniforms. The glaring whites of the Navy, to the more subdued browns and
    blues of the Army and Air Force. Lots of multi-colored and floral patterned shirts along
    with short legged trousers was indicative of the warm, sultry temperatures there at
    Pearl Harbor. The camera continued to rovolve and scan in a seemingly random
    pattern. The narrator droned on with facts and figures about this date being the sixtieth
    anniversiary of the Japanese attack on this Pacific Island, and that being the date of
    the entry of the United States into a war with the Empire of Japan. Facts that had been
    oft told and repeated so many times and serving now as a on-air time filler. The early
    morning sunrise was filtering through the steamy appearing fog hanging over the bay
    and shafts of bright light appeared almost spiritual, marking this sad day of
    remembrance. A brisk breeze tugged at the onlookers clothing, and wafted the hair of
    ladies in the crowd. The commentator stated, that the time on the clock would be
    observed to the exact moment that the sneak attack had occurred that December
    day back in 1941. The camera was now looking toward the Arizona Memorial, and the
    remarkably mundane sounding voice of the narrator was telling of the structures design
    features. It may have been more informative, had the bored sounding person not
    attempted to fill every moment with superfluous mouthings. Again the camera moved
    to the rows and groups of people as the meaningless sounding broadcasted words
    continued. Close up on the lens there was a quick flash of a face---a face so close
    that it’s features were indistinguishable---just a rapid pink flourish and then it was
    What happened? The seeking, moving camera had stopped in its searching the more
    distant faces in it’s inantimate eye, and very rapidly had reversed back to where the
    pink flash had been noted. There, now very clear and distinct, was the full side view of
    a man. The complexion now showed more than a hazy pink, but almost a flushed,
    sunburned looking red profile. The man wore a head covering the military call a fore
    and aft cap (Navy Chiefs used to call them ‘piss-cutters’). On the front portion of the
    cap was the gold script writing PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR and under that writing was
    some other identifying groups name. Tufts of silvery hair poked out from around the
    caps edges and the camera was so close it could record the generous growths of hair
    on the old mans ears. Why was the camera lingering on this old veteran? Did he have
    some part to play in the activities---was he famous, or just perhaps the cameraman
    knew who he was, and was giving the old guy his five minutes of fame over national
    television. A bugle sounded attention to colors and the commentor made pertinent
    remarks concerning the sounds. Perhaps now, the old man sensed he was being
    watched, for he turned full face to the cameras lens. The camera was
    accommodating, but did nothing to glamorize the ancient mariners appearance.
    Faded blue eyes looking out, once in youth, probably heart- rendering blue to many
    young female admirers, now almost as colorless as blue sky showing through a white
    cloud. Deep crows feet around and pouches under those eyes,denoted lots of getting
    “rained on and putting away to dry---”. A broad, florid face, with lots of red viens
    showing on the bulbous nose and fleshy cheekbones. Probably genes of a whisky
    drinking Irishman or a beer guzzling German---maybe a ‘boozer’ himself. A more than
    generous sized mouth that turned down at the corners with thin lips, almost to the
    of none showing. A spot of dried blood near the edge of the old fellows chin,
    indicating that perhaps his once steely and steady hand, now had the shakes from age
    and infirmity. A spot of silvery, red looking whiskers, high up on the cheek, showed that
    the shave had not been as thorough as perhaps it had once been when a superior
    officer had inspected his youthful physical appearance. The camera seemed to be
    frozen onto the old mans face, as he stared unblinkingly into its dead but electronically
    alive eye. The bugle sounded again---exactly 0800 and simultanously there was a
    clanging of ships bells and the shrill whistle of a boatswains pipe. This moment in time
    however, instead of sounding colors as would be normal on a military installation or
    ship, it was the Navy Band playing a most rousing version of The National Anthem. The
    booming sounds of the drums---the spine-tingling shrill of the horns--the attention
    grabbing clash of the cymbals. The camera remained focused on the old mans face,
    lingering there for some unknown reason. The voice of the narrator was now silent, and
    the air waves were being filled with the patrotic sounds of the huge band. Part way
    into the sounds of the National Anthem, a tear rolled out of the old fellows eye--then a
    tear from the other eye. Like a slow rolling object, it was gathering momentum as it
    progressed down the ruddy old cheek. On one side, that salty tear was all the way
    down to the corner of the drooping, thin lipped mouth while on the other side the tears
    were getting cought up in the unshaven patch of whiskers on his cheek and lingered
    there, collecting for a moment and then in a flush, that side also, down to the sad
    mouth. I wondered to myself as I looked into that old mans eyes, what terrible things
    those eyes had recorded onto his brain back then and that he perhaps still clung to
    these long years later. Had those eyes seen men about the business of making war
    and waging war---had he seen his own sons or grandsons cought up in the carnage of
    war. The eyes of the old Vet told no stories--eyes so time faded and sad, with tears
    falling from those eyes and his probably not even knowing of them. Hurtful and tearful
    emotions for the man inside that now aged frame, and his not even realizing they
    were falling or why. Wilborn