Home without Husband or Father
by Jim McGowan
US Army (Retired)
This is an original piece I wrote [for the Eternal Warrior Theater Workshop], inspired by Jonathan Shay’s book Odysseus in America. I am a Vietnam combat veteran. I served in the Fourth Infantry Division – first in the twelfth battalion – Bravo Company from 1968 to 1969 in Pleiku, South Vietnam.
Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, have for ten
years known the Trojan War is over and that Odysseus made
it out of Troy alive, but where is he? Amazingly, I ask the same
question of myself.
I made it out of Vietnam alive, but where am I? I am Home, but am I really? I am out of Vietnam but as a combat Veteran, Vietnam is never really out of me. Somewhat like Odysseus who finds himself bedded down with a lovely Sea Goddess, Calypso, on her distant island where he is a castaway.
Now going back to my HOMECOMING, my distant island is America where, in many aspects of my HOMECOMING, I felt like
I was a castaway. No one really understands me except for my
Brothers, who were Vietnam combat Veterans themselves. So,
we, as Odysseus, went on a search, our last lap for Home, to find
the America we left. As Odysseus traveled to the island of the
beautiful witch, Circe, who turned all her guests but Odysseus
into pigs, so America did this to my Vietnam Brothers: she
turned them all into baby killers and evil human beings. And as
Odysseus persuades Circe to restore his crew, we persuade
America to understand our crew of Brothers, that we are not
evil pigs or baby killers.
We are Americans the same as you, thrown into a war that no one could ever understand why. A war that never ends for combat Veterans when they come home. As Odysseus was a stranger in his own Home, in his beggar’s disguise, only with his son playing along with the beggar ruse were they able to defeat all the suitors who were laying claim to Odysseus’ Palace. So as we came home to our American Palace, we as combat Veterans, as Odysseus did, we pulled back our bow and slowly but surely we strung the bow and shot our arrows and knocked down all the preconceptions of baby killers and evil Americans. And after 50 years, we as Vietnam combat Veterans are restored to our rightful place as American combat soldiers. As Odysseus was restored to his rightful place as head of his Palace.
And like Odysseus, we the Vietnam combat Veterans can say without a doubt, we gave everything we had – some of us our lives.
God Bless America
Eternal Warrior Theater Workshop - Nov 2020