From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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What Brings It All Back

By Dave Connolly

One of my boyhood friends gave my son Jake a Traveler's Cross for his First Communion; you know, the one that says: "I am a Catholic; please call a priest." And that cross time-skipped me back to my mother putting one around my neck the night I didn't get a beer at my own "going-off-to-the-war" party. I was only eighteen, not old enough for beer yet but old enough to spend more than a year in Vietnam holding onto that bit of silver, making it into a juju, something I hoped would get me through too many a dark night. But don't think it was just Jesus we leaned on for luck. We were sure our lives depended on not only Him, our training and each other, but also on weirdness, like how many minutes had gone by since we last shot at Charlie, how many paces we had taken that day, whether we'd heard the "Fuck You" lizards call to us, whether the point man had stepped off with his left or his right foot. See, what we thought would save us got that crazy because our survival seemed that random.

I no longer have my cross. I wish I did because I no longer have my mother either. I traded my cross for a jade Buddha my Vietnamese counterpart wore which his mother had given to him.

I hope Nguyen Thieu, a good and brave man, continued to step off on the correct foot after I left the war and still today wears my cross. I hope my son never has to count his paces, never hears the song the lizards sing or swaps his cross with a friend. And I truly hope that Jake's cross, my mother, and Buddha keep him so safe he never feels the need to write about what brings it all back.

Dave Connolly is a Vietnam vet and a member of VVAW from South Boston.

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