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October 2013, vol 9, no 3

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Carol Judkins


…came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them…
(Excerpt from Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade)

He held me close to him and whispered "God bless you."

I smiled. I didn't want his last memory of me to be a tear-stained face. He was off to war.

Months passed; he wrote often, but letters came sporadically. I watched the news on television from Vietnam, compulsively searching the faces of Marines for his. Deep, restful sleep was impossible when nightmares of him dead in the jungle intruded on a regular basis, increasing in frequency during the siege of Khe Sanh. Body counts kept going up, announced every damn night by Walter Cronkite.

Tet prayers…
rising from black smoke,
this orange mist

When he left, our little girl was just ten months old. I had to keep her father alive. Each night we kissed his picture, and she came to know his voice from the occasional reel-to-reel tape he was able to send to us. "Daddy!" she squealed.

Before he was due to rotate home, we played a story game with her Fisher Price bear house. "Daddy bear had to go away and now Daddy bear gets to come home. Hooray! Mommy and Baby bear jumped up and down in glee…" This little two year old child hugged Daddy bear, swaying from side to side with a wide grin. We marked days off on the calendar.

She ran to him, unafraid. He scooped her up as her small arms circled his neck. His face registered a smile, but the light was gone from his eyes.

for it to bloom
cactus flower