I hadn’t gone to Johnny’s funeral. His father had planned a huge memorial for his first-born son…full of praise for the bravery John had shown in proudly fighting for his country.
If I had gone to Johnny’s funeral, this is what I would have said to his father.
“He OD’d on heroin, Mr. Taylor.”
“Maybe you’d like to read all the letters Johnny sent me. They rip my heart to shreds every time I read them.”
“I don’t want to read them…but it’s all I have of him now.”
“He was so full of pain and horror at having…even accidentally…killed innocent women and children…he couldn’t sleep…not without drugs…and sometimes not even with drugs.”
“His heart was broken after watching so many of his friends blown to pieces right before his eyes or bleed to death in his arms…crying like little kids…so scared…because they didn’t want to die but knew they were going to.”
“He was haunted by the blood that poured from the bodies of all the Vietcong soldiers he had killed…some who looked younger than Alec.”
“He wasn’t a brave hero, Mr. Taylor…he was just trying to survive…just like all the other boys around him.”
“They were all just trying to survive and come home…just come home.”
That’s what I would have said to his father if I had been at Johnny’s funeral.
And…that’s why I stayed away.