Army Reserve Magazine, Spring 1984

retyped for clarity

A Talk with an Oak Tree

Hello, old oak tree. I bet you've been around for a long, long time. Maybe you were here before there was a Fort Hood, Texas. Isn't it funny, old tree, how time passes by?

I bet, if you could talk, you could really tell some interesting stories. Soldiers from three wars have stood under your branches and talked to you.

Maybe you even knew my brother. He was here in 1967, a tall, blond teenager with a slight grin. His name was Jerry.

As dusk settle in and shadowy, uniformed figures stroll past, I can't help but imagine his walking these same paths. Across these quiet fields, I can see hundreds of men marching. Is it possible, old tree, that I might be walking where he once walked?

Standing in line at the PX or the snack bar, I can almost hear him telling his buddies how his feet hurt or what would be the first thing he would do when he got home.

And, when I pass the old-time barracks, affectionately called the "chicken coups," I ask myself, "Which one did he call home?" These images swirl through my mind with such vividness that they almost see, like my own memories.

Hear those choppers cutting through the night, old tree? Their only competition now are the crickets chirping. Did he listen to their songs? Perhaps he was too tired at the end of the day's training. Or, maybe he had other things on his mind.

I don't mean to dwell on these things, old tree. They seem to float up with the dust. Did you know my brother? Did he rest his head against your trunk and cuss the heat?

I'd ask him, old tree, but he's not around any more  --  Vietnam, you know. "MISSING IN ACTION," the telegram said. 

The preceding was written by Spec. 4 Donna Elliott, a member of the 343 Public Affairs Detachment, 122nd U.S. Army Reserve Command. She put her thoughts to paper while performing Annual Training at Fort Hood, and what she wrote appeared in the Fort Hood SENTINEL and the ARCOM'S DIAMOND. She was awarded the U.S. Army Forced Command's  Fourth Estate Award as a result. Her brother was declared Missing in Action on January 21, 1968.


Now, at last, I have been to Vietnam, I have walked unafraid where many brave men died in battle. I have stood on the very ground where my lost brother was last seen alive. And still, I ask myself, "Why?"...