Return To Heartbreak RidgeReturn To Heartbreak Ridge is the story of a sons' search for his fathers' past, and a series of letters received from Korean War Veteran SFC Seymour "Hoppy" Harris, a gunner with Company H, 23d Infantry Regiment, 1951. It is a complex story.
Warning: Strong language, pejorative terms, and honesty.
You Have A Personality Disorder
Got another notice from the Veterans Administration for a Compensation Exam. They were supposed to reschedule it for the Rochester VA Clinic, but something or somebody got tangled up so I will go to Syracuse and get it over with. They all want it to look like they are doing a lot of work to justify their existence.
Hell, I should be used to the ways of the VA by now. They will have their way, come hell or high water. Seem to take delight in giving you the business. All the doctors have to do something, don't they?
I'm trying to write this outdoors and fight bugs at the same time. It's warm here today for a change, and I don't want to waste it by staying inside.
You have probably already thought of it or done it, but I was wondering if you ever got in touch with anyone from Graves Registration, the guys who matched up the bodies at the 23rd up a Heartbreak Ridge. If anybody should have a good idea of the dead at Heartbreak Ridge, they should. It's my guess the doctors can give you a good idea.
I think there are probably some still up there on the ridge. If we didn't bury them, the gooks did, especially there along toward the last. Hell, for that matter, where we had the first battle some lay there until the blow flies were on them, it sounded like a buzz saw.
You wouldn't believe how hot it got up there during the day. Like July and August in the eastern United States.
I hope you can get some good information out of the officers. They were all good officers we had at Heartbreak. I'm proud I served alongside them. I can't think of one of them that I wouldn't have followed anywhere. Riddle was my favorite, but like I said, they were all good. Now that's lieutenants I'm talking about. Other than Major Jensen, I didn't know any senior grade brass-asses very well.
By the way, the Comp Exam is for 8 June 11:30 A.M. Christ, I'd hoped I'd never see Syracuse VAH again. Oh the hell with them, I can cut it. But they are a pain in the ass.
I wish I had some of those shitheads with me over in Korea. They wouldn't ask so many stupid questions. They actually believe that you can put a war out of your head. Sure, you feel on the right side of your head, find a little toggle switch there. Snap it and you will forget all the bad things you saw in Korea. It was Korea, wasn't it. Oh yes, I have it right here. Just a moment.
That's the way they go about examining you. Ask another question before you answer the first. They act like they are trying to set a speed record. Crock of shit! Unnecessary and a waste of money.
The memories I have of Korea, I will take to my grave with me. The nightmares will no doubt remain until I am older than dirt. No amount of talk or counseling will do any good. Especially if it is by some birdbrain. They have never been where you have been. Never felt what you have felt. Never seen what you have seen. Never heard the terrible scream of a man who has received a fatal wound and knows it. Never seen a man with his guts hanging down around his knees, the streaming down to the ground until he is tripping on them.
Or sat in the dark and every few minutes taking the pulse of a gut shot kid laying in the lonely darkness next to you. You feel his body quiver and then feel it go still. Without taking the pulse again, you know he is dead. Dead at 19, and you sit there in the darkness and sob your heart out. You curse the futility of war. You curse the sonofabitches who got you in such a mess.
I had that experience at Heartbreak Ridge one night, and I wish the bastards asking me questions had been there too. But then what good would that do?
Hal, my wife says she know how to fight a war. She ought to, she says. She's heard me doing it enough in my sleep.
When I was a patient in Syracuse, all the doctors, nurses, and what-nots were amazed at what a graphic description I could give of something I had seen. They wondered how I was able to do it. They figured after all those years I should have forgotten. But I told them it was simple. The things I told them were burned into my memory.
Have the warm blood of a fellow soldier hit you in the face and watch him kick his life out on the frozen ground and see if you forget.
"Oh, it would be such a thing to see, a lot of men would go into a state of shock, in time forget it ever happened," they would say.
I would say, "I am not a lot of men. I am me."
Goddamnit, I get tired of people sitting and staring at me, slowly shaking their heads as if they understand. Horseshit if they understand. Bunch of phonies!
I told one doctor about something that happened to me in Korea, and he went home and had a nightmare. At least he has some idea what it is like.
They say I have a personality disorder. How could anyone go through what I've been through and not have a personality disorder. Life changes everybody over the years. You get to be an old coot and you've changed. Naturally. What the hell do you think?
The only thing I ever got out of Syracuse VAH was they determined through a series of tests that I am of average intelligence. My brother-in-law says that should make me very happy. Says that puts me in good company. Said a high percentage of people aren't of average intelligence. You believe that?
The more you know, the more miserable you are. I think that's why I didn't crack up in Korea. Only the very intelligent blow their tops. That's a fact you know. You can look it up.
There will be no Memorial Day parade in Rochester except for peace marchers and Nam vets. Burns my ass, the Nam vets. You could give them you ass, shit through you ribs, and they'd still piss and moan. You try to tell them vets of other wars have been ignored, you might as well crawl off in a corner and lap your nuts. Bunch of cry babies trying to make you think Nam was the worst war ever. Nam was no worse than Korea, WW-1, or WW-2. They are all just different versions of hell. Men die needlessly, bleed their young lives out onto the ground. Death is a very personal experience. It will never change.
You try to talk to Nam vets and war protestors, and they can never give you an alternative to war. Oh sure, don't fight anyone, anyplace, anytime. Get rid of all your weapons, let the Russians keep theirs. Become a Poland. Protest and get your silly ass blown away. You can't reason with your enemy after he has shot you in the heart. You just die.
Sure, the politicians start our wars. But I want to know if our way of life is worth fighting for? Should we just surrender?
Hal, I want to get this letter mailed, so will say so long for this time. Wish me luck with the Comp Exam. Try to behave yourself, will you?
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