12” x 18” • Felt
The story of Bertrand is full of depth, feeling and sorrow, but the last 2 words were the ones that summed the whole piece for me -’Not Forgotten’. Thunder road, misty skies, thunderous clouds are the background scenes, but ‘Not Forgotten’ touched me and I really wanted to bring that forward to honor everyone in the military. Sacrifices by some, the luck of making a small maneuver by others makes you realize that things can change in just an instant.
Inspired by the experiences of Pete Ramsey
I DID NOT KNOW YOUR NAME
by Pete Ramsey
I did not know your name as I watch the Armored Personnel Carrier after having struck the landmine, pirouette like a Blue whale breaching the ocean’s surface. To this day I see you hanging there in the hatch while your tether to life itself is being cut asunder, Bernard James Henry.
I did not know your names as I drive past the blast site which is within sight of the gate of Lai Khe and a modicum of safety. You were at the end of a year’s tour duty in Vietnam. So close you were to seeing the faces of those you loved and who loved you. You were like lost souls caught in a blizzard for days on end who finally get to safety only to be snatched away by the Wolf of War as your hand makes contact with the doorknob. Added to the macabre twist of fate, all of you from the same town in New Hampshire, Guy Blanchette, Gaeton Beaudoin, Richard Genest, Richard Raymond and Robert Robichaud.
There are three body bags as well laying beside the road waiting to be picked up. They contain the remains of the unfortunate Vietnamese father, mother and daughter killed as well, I will never know your names. Your sin was just being along side the stricken truck. I note the ruthlessness of warfare which can befall the innocent.
I did not know your names at the unexpected sound of an explosion shaking the air inside FSB Thunder 1. I sit in the mess tent eating along with several others. We only give it a passing thought. Shortly I will know the truth that death stalks you without pity once war has you in it’s talons. There is not an ounce of safety anywhere here. In a nightmarish turn of events, each step so simple and inane, but when put together they produce a lethal result. My troop Capt. John Howard Guthridge and SSG Charles Joseph Mac Donald have both been lost. Followed of course by the absurd mental gibberish of “Oh, I guess it was just their time” in an attempt to describe the indescribable.
I did not know your name as my Lieutenant walks back towards our APC with a shaken and ashen look on his face. On the right side of his forehead is a trickle of blood. He witnessed your passing. One account says it was a booby trap grenade while another account says something else. Whatever the cause, suddenly you were gone, Robert Benoit.
I did not know your name but am witness to the plume of black smoke and sound of screeching shrapnel. There is only a fragment of you left to be placed on the Dustoff. That morning you had sat on the APC as the orders of the day were being outlined for your ARVN counterparts. The look on your face had a far away appearance and it still does today when I gaze over photos of the time. Helping train the ARVN soldier who at times seemed totally disinterested was a high risk venture and you did so without regard for yourself, David Edward Kuczynski.
I did not know your name but only hear of your passing via the radio head set I am wearing. Your job is the same as mine, driver of an APC and thus the most vulnerable to immediate death from landmines. Having seen before the results of such an encounter I can only hope yours was an immediate departure with no suffering, Andrew B Sexton.
I did not know your name as I looked at what remained of the APC you have been driving. Once again we share a kinship of sorts in both being drivers. I did not know your name but in the intervening hours between seeing and hearing about your fate we achieved a brotherhood and bond still holding strong today. The stark reality before me leaves no doubts in my mind as to the consequences of missing any hint or scent of immediate danger. You taught me to take nothing for granted and never ever let my thoughts stray. If I wanted to stay alive that is, Eugene Ray Jenkins.
I did not know your names as we secure the crash site of your small helicopter. The rotor blades are draped in a blackened and melted arch like a hideous crown over the disposition of the your remains. Both of you had just been awarded the Silver Star for sitting your craft right into the middle of a firefight to deliver plasma to badly wounded troops. Heroic and selfless yes, but fate had other plans for Henry J Vad and James L Downing.
I did not know your name but knew some who served with you. Someone higher up had thought that the cavalry would be a good place to mimic a tv show back home called “The Rat Patrol”. What has happened instead? Despite your efforts and good leadership, the fragility of your transport and the quick ingenuity of the enemy has brought a swift end to an officer,s Hollywood romances of glory. You bring a fantasy back to reality much much too expensively, Burton K Phillips.
I did not know your names as I drive you back into the village square. Your cadavers are piled up like discarded rag dolls in a makeshift bin on the front of my tank. Some of your faces are only a couple of feet from my own. Is my indifference a sign of lost humanity or a self-protection mechanism? Once dumped maybe the villagers will know of you. You are their problem now.
I did not know your names as I look over your bullet riddled bodies. I did not know the names of your possible husbands or lovers. Maybe there are children somewhere waiting for your return. A mother or father wondering what has become of their girl child.
I did not know your names as you climb on board my track for an American-Vietnamese joint operation. I see a small impish people who seem to be somewhat lackadaisical about what awaits in the day ahead. I watch you march off with the same attitude. Some with rifles up over their shoulders carried like after thoughts. Some stroll like school kids holding each others hand. I know that some of you will not see the day’s end. I did not know your names, but I do remember your faces.
I did not know your name as I scream NO! at the Vietnamese medic about to inject you with a dose of morphine. You have sucking chest wounds and morphine will act like a lethal injection. He does anyway and my effort to get you to my stretcher has been for naught along with the risk I took getting to you.
I did not know all of your names as we split company on the eve of a fateful day. Voices and call signs will be the only tools of identification the next day as terror and desperation reigns supreme around you. By it’s end and in the following days I will come to know of Eldon Moore, Daniel L Flynn, Everette L. Ankrom, Edward E Howard, William Bond and Jay W King. And Billy Joe Schaffer, I knew your name only too well. We were brothers in arms at the very first hand shake.
So what can be said then of the named and unnamed? Simply this. With absolute certainty, whether friend or foe, each embraced the desire to live and laugh with the same passion and joy as any one of us living today. Also like us, each asking of life, to please remember my name.