Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich

“Fred, you have to believe, we want to help you.”

“That’s what you keep telling me.”

“The Army, if nothing else, takes care of its own.”

“That’s what you say. I say they’re sticking me with a head-shrinker because I’m a problem they don’t want to deal with.”

“Fred, don’t think of me as…you seem to approach this with the idea that these therapy sessions are some kind of punishment. I’m not here to punish you. I’m here to assist you.”

“And are you going to make people respect me? Are you going to make the insults stop? Are you going to make people quit treating me like shit?”

“I can’t control what other people do, Fred. I can only help you deal with what they do.”

“I’m a hero, goddamn it. I served my country when it called.”

“No one’s disputing that you served your country, Fred.”

“Tell that to the kids at the airport who spit on me when I came home.”

“It was just the one kid, wasn’t it, Fred?”

“That’s not the point.”

“And he was four months old.”

“I don’t see what difference that makes.”

“He didn’t really spit on you so much as he spit up on you.”

“Look, I don’t want to hash over more of your psychobabble theories. Like how you ‘explained’ those protestors calling me a baby-killer.”

“Fred, you have to at least consider the possiblity they weren’t referring to you.”

“The shouted it right at me. They had signs that said BABY KILLER.”

“But you were walking past an abortion clinic. They didn’t follow you to the Subway.”

“I know who they were talking about.”

“Well, what can we learn from the recent violent incidents in your life? The Veteran’s Administration can only help you so much if you’re constantly going to be in trouble with the police like that.”

“Look, doctor. The U.S. Army trained me to be a killer. They taught me to go over there and exterminate those people. They built a highly efficient weapon and aimed it at Vietnam, and now they expect me to just shut off? I’m a man, not a tool.”

“So, was the man who ran the laundromat. And you probably hurt his feelings, as well as his jaw, when you punched him in the face.”

“He provoked me.”

“He told you that you had to have a ticket to get your comforter back. That’s not really worth wrapping a wire hanger around his neck over.”

“You don’t understand. Those people, they’re all the same to me. Uncle Sam didn’t teach me to differentiate between the good Vietnamese who run laundries and the bad Vietnamese who execute civilians. When the flashbacks hit me, I just want to take them all out. I can’t distinguish between these fine points like you civilians.”

“Fred, I don’t want to seem like I’m contradicting you, but you were a supply clerk in the Army.”

“A front line supply clerk. I was out there in the thick of it. I was giving blankets and shaving mirrors to the Green Berets.”

“Well, the other thing, Fred, is that you served from 1990 to 1998.”

“So?”

“Well, we weren’t at war with Vietnam in the ’90s.”

“Oh, sure. They didn’t call it a war. They called it a ‘police action’ to keep their dirty hands clean. Well, I don’t care if it was declared or not, I know what I…”

“No, I mean to say that the Vietnam War ended in 1973.”

“Uh…”

“There hadn’t been any fighting for almost twenty years by the time you joined up. You weren’t even in country most of the time. You served most of your hitch in the Philippines.  You won a prize for water skiing.”

“Well…”

“Yes, Fred?”

“It wasn’t easy. Where’s my goddamn parade?”

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