Author Note: This is written like people talk. I honestly do know better but I wanted it so read like you were sitting there listening to your uncle tell a tale.
"Hey Preacher," the voice coming from the phone shocked me. No one had called me that since my last days in Vietnam. Four years at home and still trying to get past those days.
"Jim you son of a bitch, I almost didn't recognize your voice." He had to know that it was a lie. Not more than a dozen people in the whole world knew me by that name. "What the hell are you doing calling me. I thought you were dead." I gave a resounding laugh so he knew that I was kidding.
"Nah that was my evil twin brother who died. So what you up to these days Preach?" I had a chill run through me. Not at the use of my name but at the thought that Jim obviously had something in mind.
"Oh doing a little of this and a little of that." I tried to make it convincing. I had pretty much taken over for my Uncle Deacon. Deacon was all finesse, whereas I was maximum violence. They each seemed to get the job done. I had come to hate drugs and drug dealers while in Vietnam. Taking their money didn't bother me in the least. When they resisted with guns, they died. It was a simple way of dealing with men who sold junk to kids.
"So you want to go to Detroit?"
"Why the hell would I want to go to Detroit?"
"Why hell Preach we be having kind of reunion there."
"Jim, there were exactly twenty men in our field unit and half of them are dead. It ain't going to be much of a reunion."
"Well it ain't exactly that kind of reunion."
"What kind of reunion is it then."
"Vietnam Vets Against the War is having some kind of a thing in Detroit. They want to hear our stories."
"Jim have you gone soft on me." I couldn't believe he had joined the resistance. He and I hadn't really been in the war. At least not the one they were protesting.
"They sent out a call for the Advisors to the ARVN troops. They want to ask us what it was like in the early days."
"That's nuts. Who the hell cares what it was like in the cowboy days."
"Some naval officer is promising to get it all told. He was some kinda' Seal or something. Wants to let everybody know the truth."
"Why ours of course."
"I haven't talked to you in a long time, so you probably don't know how I feel."
"Unless you're the one who has gone soft, I know exactly how you feel. It's how all of us feel. Maybe we can get the word out. If nothing else, we can shake a few of them up. Come on Preach it will be fun."
"If you knew how I hated the cold, you wouldn't ask me."
"Preach, my friends in the VVAW tell me they are going to give this SEAL all the dirt to carry to Washington. Don't you want to see what dirt they have?"
"From what I hear of the VVAW they are a ragtag bunch who can't do more than have a lot of guys in field jackets show up to burn flags. How the hell are they going to get their stories out?"
"This Seal has an in with congress. He's gonna'' get it read into the congressional record."
"Now that is interesting. Yeah Jim, I would like to hear what they gonna' put in that report." I had no idea what happened in the war after I left just a few short of years before. I wondered if I might learn something from the GIs at the meeting. If nothing else it would be a chance for me to get away for a few days.
I hadn't been in an airplane since I got home from the cross country flight in 1966. Even though I swore that I would never leave North Carolina again, I boarded the whisper jet at the local airport. I managed to fly past Detroit and on to Chicago, then of course I changed planes and flew back.
"Hey there Preacher," the old looking young man said. "Damn Jim you gained a couple of pounds and got old."
"How am I gonna' get old in seven years."
"I got no idea man, but you sure as hell did it." I grinned at him. Truth is except for the extra twenty pounds on a frame well able to support it, he looked exactly the same.
"Come on let's get a beer."
"First the bags, then the beer." I don't expect Jim knew it but I had the old Colt combat green pistol in the b-4 bag. I should have replaced the bag but what the hell, I hadn't traveled any since I returned home.
"You still got that chicken shit Air Force suitcase. God how we envied you that bag. You the only one didn't show up in Saigon with a duffle bag and a gym bag."
"That's what happens when you have a brother in the Air Force." I said it almost seriously.
We were in a cab headed for the Howard Johnson's, without a beer I might add, when Jim said, "Preacher we go to be cool here. Lots of these guys are wired."
"I don't think so. They be high on something else. Not sure if its hate or revenge but they on some kind of high. Me and you got to stay low."
"I didn't come a thousand miles to lay low Jim. You got me here, I expect you to stand up to it."
"Preacher ain't nobody gonna' do nothing to you they don't do to me. We just don't need to be startin' it."
"Hell Jim, the only way you can know it's coming is if you start it."
"Preacher, I'm serious these are some bad assed dudes. We bad too, but there are a lot of them. They say over a hundred gonna' give statements."
"Statements about what."
"Bout what they saw and did in DaNam."
"Well that's what we are here for isn't it?"
"Just be careful please."
"Jim, I'm a changed man. I don't go chasin'' after trouble no more."
"Yeah, and we made the world a better place."
"Not even a little part of it."
Half an hour later we were in the bar. Looking around we were about the only ones there without field jackets. Most were too new looking to have seen much time off the rack. The bartender looked terrified. There were a lot of rough looking guys with beards and long hair, but they seemed pretty harmless to me. Still there was a kind of fire in their eyes as if they were on a crusade, if not drugs.
One of the men recognized Jim. Jim had been there a couple of days before he called me. "Sargent Lester this is my friend Preacher Burke." I reached up and shook the slightly younger man's hand.
"So who were you with?" It was a natural question for him to ask.
"MACV," It should have been all the answer necessary.
"What the fuck is that?" He looked a little drunk. I quickly began to assess him. He was about twenty pounds of drunk, overweight. Too much soft living since he came home I thought. If it came to physical force, I was more than a match for him. Problem was several more people drifted over.
"That was them pussies that pushed papers in Saigon." The New man just looked mean.
I was surprised to find Jim answer for me. "You open your fucking mouth again honey, and this pussy gonna' put your ass in the hospital." He looked around just as cold as a morgue slab. "Don't much matter to me how many of you 'heroes' go with him..."
"MACV, was more than paper pushers Lester. Some of them were advisors to the ARVN before we ever heard of Vietnam. "What year Preacher?" He intentionally looked past Jim. He was trying to diffuse the situation.
"63," I replied not taking my eyes off the others. I noted with satisfaction that Jim hadn't either.
"Preacher was back again in 65 won his self a Pulitzer."
"Peabody Jim." I corrected him still expecting trouble.
"Oh you were with the press to? We definitely want to talk to you."
"Oh we, so you are in charge of this band of soldiers."
"Not much in charge to it. This was kinda' the idea of a Navy Officer. He wants to take testimony to help end the war, then take it Washington. He's got some kind of pull down there."
Just as quickly as the tenst moment come, it went. Every one was buddies again a minute after the man calmed it all down. "So you are some kind of organizer?"
"Well VVAW will work with anyone who is serious about ending this war."
"Man with Washington connections wants to have a meeting and you don't have a problem with it?" I was more than a little surprised.
"Well the anti war people are in congress now. We can get this stuff in the record, it will make it real not just some vet rambling."
"So it's a hundred vets rambling?" I asked it a little skeptical. It was easy to skeptical if the men in the Howard Johnson lounge were any indication of the types doing the testifying.