Work For Food
"Will work for food." The words were neatly written in black magic marker on a jagged piece of brown cardboard. A filthy man about forty-five held the sign. He wore a pair of dirty, blood stained military fatigues; a green t-shirt, tattered and frayed; a military issue jacket whose patches needed patched; and combat boots, worn with holes, allowing his dirt and sweat stained socks to peek through. He huddled over a subway grate trying to keep warm. Holding his weather beaten sign, he hoped that someone would recognize that he was more than just a bum asking for a hand out.
David was nineteen when his number was called. A fresh faced kid, he worked at the grocery store and dated the girl next door. The Sunday before he shipped out, his church honored him with prayers and well wishes for a safe and speedy return.
Eight weeks later David was on a transport plane with fifty-nine other child soldiers. They were being sent to Saigon.
David spent three years in the lush jungles of Vietnam. Soldiers, old men, women, children; he saw them all die. The earth was red with blood. Faces of the dead haunted David in wakefulness and in sleep. David was sent home in January three years, eight weeks, and six days after he left. Of the fifty-nine men he began his nightmare with only twenty were alive to make the journey home.
David returned not to a grateful nation, but to a country torn by war. He was booed and spit upon. Men and women yelled "baby killer" and "murderer" at him. David knew they were right. He carried the images of the dead with him everywhere.
Eventually, David returned to his former life. Once again, he bagged groceries at the...