By Tina Portelli
He was normal going in. At seventeen Johnny Boy signed up for he US
Marines. He could have picked the Army, the Navy, a lesser challenge,
yet his choice of troop was for the most difficult of all.
In the midst of World II signing up was the right thing to do. His
mother objected, his father didn't care. Being a high school dropout, being
poor, he had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. In the end, he lost
his wits rewarded by sleepless nights.
The training part was a breeze. Hard work felt good, adventure in his
eyes, he had dreams of victory. It was not to be. After completing
basic training he was off to the war. Anxious yet thrilled, he arrived on the
beaches of the famous Canal.
His mother prayed for a miracle that would bring him home alive. She
prayed too hard, for he did return; mentally dead.
It was the night after a day of exhaustion and blood filled fields.
During a fitful sleep he suddenly awoke, disoriented, and scared out of his
mind in terror. A demonic nightmare that he could not verbalize to anyone.
It left him wide-eyed and speechless. Something had scared him out of his
wits. His screams were uncontrollable, heard throughout the base;
violence erupted, which awarded him a white coat. He had to be restrained, not
for a night, but for six months. Most of his days were bad. His sudden
bursts of violence would force attendants to drag him to the padded cell and
restrain him. They would return to his cell later in the night bearing
sticks for beatings. He was mistreated, helpless and confused. Victim
of a nightmare.
His mother's prayers had been answered, her boy had finally been sent
home in a mild controllable daze. Not with an honorable discharge, although
his intentions were just that. He never got to participate in the war, but
battled his private war at home, not with a rifle, but with medication
for the war going on in his mind.
And after fifty-nine years, and with his medical discharge hidden in a
trunk, Johnny Boy still remembers; not the nightmare, but the loss of
his dream; To be an American Hero.