Percussion, Concussion, Destruction and Death
By Gregory Ross
The two principal characters in this true story are Gregory, a Veteran for Peace, and Brutus, a pro-war veteran. In 1967, Gregory, the Veteran for Peace, had been deployed to Morocco shortly after the Six Day War, the first duty station in which he had been fired upon. In 1968, he was sent to the Philippine Islands, where again his life was threatened, and in 1969 to the Seventh Fleet, about a mile off the Coast of Vietnam providing support for ground troops. Gregory's workspaces on board ship were a single deck below one of the big guns: a lot of percussion, concussion, destruction, and death. Brutus, the pro-war veteran, served most of his enlistment stateside with a short deployment to Germany.
The following events happened over the course of about a year. Gregory was chairing a meeting of the neighborhood crime prevention council. Brutus kept pacing behind him, out of his sight, but not out of his consciousness. Gregory asked Brutus to stop walking behind him because it made it difficult to concentrate. Brutus knew Gregory had problems with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Brutus ignored Gregory until he raised his voice and emphatically suggested Brutus sit the "expletive" down. This outburst on the part of Gregory seemed to amuse, even please, Brutus.
Months later, Brutus, in another community meeting, publicly called into question Gregory's right to experience PTSD and in the falsest manner of politeness suggested that Gregory might be exaggerating his symptoms, especially his "startle response." Gregory restrained his thoughts of picking up his chair and bashing Brutus into a bloody pulp. He was, after all, a Veteran for Peace. Gregory, who moved in many conjoining circles with Brutus, had to content himself with false politeness.
Again, months later in the local coffee shop, Gregory was conversing with Rose, a neighborhood acquaintance. Brutus came in and sat down uninvited. No sooner did Brutus sit down than there was a loud screech of tires, which startled Gregory and only Gregory, to the point of a gasp. All three turned to see a man, in the crosswalk, thrown up into the air by a large truck. The man had put out his arms and broke the impact by jumping up. When he came down [he was athletic enough to land on his feet], he bowed an apology to the driver, who Rose and Gregory agreed had been in the wrong. Brutus seemed to have no opinion.
Rose opined that she would have threatened the driver with harm. Gregory agreed. Brutus tapped on Gregory's peace dove with olive branch Veterans For Peace button and grinning a snarky smile said, "Veterans For Peace, huh?" Gregory looked him straight in the eyes and said, "That's right, it says 'Veterans For Peace, not Victims for Persecution.'" Brutus smirked, as if to say, "gotcha" and walked off. Rose remarked, "What an asshole." She got no argument from Gregory, the Veteran for Peace.
Gregory Ross was in the Navy, serving in Morocco, Six Day War (1967), Philippines (1968), and Vietnam, 7th Fleet, Gun Line (1969). Published in Anthology: "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace" edited by Maxine Hong Kingston.