Thanks to MWSA, I’ve “met” many terrific people…most of whom are authors. According to Dictionary.com an author is defined as: a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist. I see myself as the “editor,” be that as it may, a “copy editor" for those of you who like to make that distinction. I’m supposing that I can also call myself an author even though I have not written a book (as of yet), because I have written several poems, a number of short stories, and I write this column for Dispatches.
We have many members of MWSA, and many are “out there” enjoying what that membership brings to them. Now with the new website, there is much more for all of us to take advantage of to enjoy, to learn, to share, to appreciate, etc. Not all of us are published authors, but we are writers, nonetheless. I am thankful to the members who are supportive of those of us along the spectrum of writing who may or may not have been published. Here’s to a very productive year for all MWSA writers.
This month I’d like to introduce you to Gerald “Jerry” Wright, who contacted me to copy edit a short story, which he submitted to a contest. It was about a mission he flew when he was a helicopter gunship pilot in Vietnam. We’ve had a good time working on several projects.
Jerry is an Army veteran who finished his career at the rank of colonel. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, thirty-six Air Medals, and later the Legion of Merit.
Some of the events that led to the awards for valor included being hit a dozen or more times by ground fire and after counting a hundred bullet holes in his aircraft—he quit counting. He also had three forced landings due to hostile fire. The fuel cell on his gunship was hit on two separate occasions—fortunately, the bullets were not tracer rounds that could have caused an explosion and blown the aircraft out of the sky. Shrapnel from an eight-inch howitzer round ripped a hole in the middle of the windshield. Jerry had to jettison rocket pods due to a tracer round starting a fire in one of the solid fuel rocket motors, and he took several rounds through the windshield and cockpit during an attack to suppress fire from machine guns hidden in bunkers. Upon returning to “the real world” he was a test pilot at Aberdeen Proving Grounds; he was the first pilot to fire a mini-gun on the OH 6A.
Jerry started and managed three businesses. One was successful, one moderately so, and he states he had one that flopped. He returned to the Army and served in various assignments to include being a senior staff officer for a three star general; he was selected for, completed (to include many writing assignments), and graduated from the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Jerry is now at a point where he wants to spend time each day on his writing. I am honored to work with this veteran—he is a hero, in my book. I’ve enjoyed communicating with him via phone and email. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll have the pleasure of getting to meet him in person. Hey, just maybe on my trip to Ohio for the next MWSA conference!
We’d like to share one of his poems. If you’d like to give Jerry some feedback, you can reach him via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Till Death Do Us Part
By Gerald Wright
They said their wedding vows
in the church down the way.
Till death do us part
was easy to say.
A new lieutenant
just out of college,
was off to chopper school
to gain more knowledge.
A beautiful young couple
went where the army did send.
Just starting their life they
wanted to turn the world on end.
Vietnam, a word foreign to them,
was where all new pilots went to war.
The call of duty could not be ignored,
he packed his bags and left the shore.
Soon, in the rice paddies and lowland mud
he learned how to shoot rockets and how to kill.
Then they moved to the mountains
to fight an enemy that was strong willed.
A shot of adrenaline
with testosterone for a chaser,
he was twelve feet tall and bullet proof.
He would fly through all their tracers.
He refused the temptation
when others took time out
to quell the urge of all young men
whose future was in doubt.
He had made vows to a wonderful wife,
together they had created a new life.
Now he wanted to return
to a place with no strife.
On the way to the mountains they
stopped at base camp for the night
for a break and some rest
before the next fight.
Outside the gate in a walled enclosure
girls were kept, clean and polite,
to service the needs of soldiers
that might die in the next fight.
Fresh meat, government inspected
and vaccinated, was kept in store
and approved for consumption
to satiate desires of pawns at war.
He could have joined in
yet he resisted betrayal
of the soon-to-be mother
and his faithful wife.
The rain-forest jungle
was a terrible place to fight.
He flew in and out of small clearings
in his motorized kite.
With rockets and guns ablaze
enemy soldiers were easy to kill.
The flying, gross scenes, and the melee
rolled in his head as he became crazed.
He killed the enemy with attacks he lead,
picked up nerve-shattered souls
skinny and gaunt from fighting a war.
Then he went back to bring out the dead.
They said, stand down for a day or two.
Rest, relax, and recuperate.
Make a run to town
to see the girls and inebriate.
After drinking their lunch
it was off to a house of red.
Everyone was giddy and game;
it was a chance to relieve some pain.
He resisted, but teased and harassed
and with another drink,
they shamed him into a terrible trespass.
The vows he had pledged about to break.
In five minutes or less,
it did not take long
for the release to come
that relieved the tension.
In a minute or less
he did understand
the terrible mistake and the
loss of a vow that he did break.
He returned with
medals for bravery,
that meant nothing now
that the vows were violated.
She did ask
that very first night
if he had been true
to their vows and delight.
He could not lie
and that he did not do.
She did not understand
and left in a fright.
He explained the kill-or-be-killed tension
of a real combat fight and days of going without.
Till death do us part was a vow now broken
but not as broken as was her heart, as she took flight.
Oh how she hurt, it hurt so bad—she ached so deep,
that she could not bring tears needed to weep.
If she had known it would lead to this,
she would never have let the vows cross her lips.
They were each alone
As he went to civilian work.
He had to pay bills
No matter what it took.
He hurt, she hurt and cried,
their feelings were gone.
Such was war.
They both wanted to die.
Like most others at home
she did not know the temptations
he resisted or the bravery he had shown
as he flew into battle, all on his own.
Machines he liked and
road building came next.
He tried to forget
the sorrow and regret.
In spite of the noise
and concentration required
his mind kept going back
to the tragedies of war.
His mind was at war
when the cable did break.
It took less time than
the original mistake.
It was the last mistake
that he did make
and he was no more
and in death they did part.