“Combat changes a person. It changed me.”
Those are the words of Marine Corps Vietnam veteran George Eyre Masters in “Missing in America, ” a powerful essay he wrote that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 29.
Masters uses his feelings about how best to support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as a way to get into a gripping account of his time in the trenches in the Vietnam War. “Listen up, ” he says to those who want to know how to treat returning troops today. “If you’ve never hunted humans, if you’ve never been hunted; if you haven’t been shot at on a regular basis, one thing you could try is to appreciate what this person has been through. Then get down on your knees and pray, and thank your lucky stars it wasn’t you.’
He then takes us back to Quang Nam Province in 1968, and Masters’ evocative prose brings you right into the combat zone. To wit: “Concentrating on the ground, I breathe in shallow drafts. Turning my head I scan the hot, windless valley. Alone under my helmet, wet under my flak jacket, the sweat rolls down the inside of my legs. I follow Valdez, the radio man, 10 meters to my front. Valdez, with his antennas tied down, shifts his rifle. Where Valdez steps, I step. I feel more than see the forward progress of Koster, the point man. Then Frenchy, Davis, Stillman, Billy Mac and Valdez. Hearing Barberra behind me, I’m aware of Duke and Ski like a snake knows his tail.”
Masters is at work on a novel. If it’s as good as his essay, we’re in for a treat. You can reach him at author@GeorgeEyreMasters .com His Web site is www.GeorgeEyreMasters.com