Oh, What A Lucky Man, He Was....

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“He had white horses, and ladies by the score
All dressed in satin, and waiting by the door
He went to fight wars, for his country and king
Of his honor and his glory, the people would sing…
Oh, what a lucky man, he was…”

~ Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Tony was an extremely handsome young man. Popular among his peers and an outstanding athlete in high school, Tony had always wanted to stand proud in the country’s uniform and to be among its heroes. He got his wish.

Oh, what a lucky man, he was…

At age 18, Tony realized his dream. He gave his all for country and honor serving in The War.

As part of the peace-makers destroying the evil, Tony knew that he was making freedom and victory over bad. Tony was a good soldier. He was respected by his friends and commanders, and in action he never lost his cool.

“Just doing my duty. Had to protect my buddies!” Tony saluted after spraying a house full of insurgent mothers and their infant brood. “Gotta bring freedom to this God-forsaken land!”

Tony was awarded a Purple Heart, and for bravery he was given a Service Award. He had come face to face with death many times — but he had always escaped the Grim Reaper.

Oh, what a lucky man, he was…

But, the body of even the strongest fighter one day will be worn down. After one too many battles, Tony’s just couldn’t take it anymore — and he was ordered to go home.

It had been over a year since he last saw his sweetheart. He hoped: Had she waited, like she promised? Most certainly. After all, Tony knew he was a very lucky young man.

Back in his home town, the news of the returning war hero was all the rage. The local patriots decided to show their appreciation and they refurbished his home. Companies donated money, folks pitched in and worked together. It was a grand sight! Tony’s home was made to look brand new.

At last! The day dawned and the sun shone bright. Tony came marching home with medals on his chest. With flags awaving, the children were speechless the parents looked up and then quickly looked to the ground. At the bus station a delegation met the war hero. For their guest of honor there was a parade downtown. As folks threw streamers from third story roof tops in a classic Ford T-bird the Mayor and Tony rode. Tony’s proud parents beamed their approval. And the entire town, and then some, turned out to cheer.

As the motorcade went by, a tear came to his eye. They all felt fortunate to be called “American.”

Oh, what a lucky man, he was…

After the big parade, after the band played “Hero,” with his high-school sweetheart, Tony finally was alone. Even when he was in battle he never felt so nervous. But near her side, he wanted to be home.

Before he had gone to fight, they had been so much in love. But since last they had last met, time had changed many things. For him her love still burned, Tony desperately hoped and he prayed.

Her strawberry blonde hair shimmered in the glistening sun. She turned and smiled. She hugged him and kissed him. He never wanted to let go.

Even though she had to tell him her secret, she just couldn’t do it, not right now — she felt it was her duty to at least comfort him, for a day or a little while.

With their kiss, he knew that something was awry — her eyes seemed hollow — they no longer sparkled. He knew that her feelings had grown cold. But he thought he could make them revive, after all, he knew he was a very, very lucky young man.

When he arrived at his new home Tony’s surprise was multiplied. He was overjoyed. The townspeople had done him a great service. And it hadn’t cost his family a single cent!

Oh, what a lucky man, he was…

The townspeople were proud of what they had done for Tony almost as much as what Tony had done for them and their country. Some townsfolk took to crowing not only about Tony’s great deeds and medals but also about the money they had donated to remodel Tony’s house. While it encouraged new business the project had made the town grow closer together.

In order to cement their pride for everyone to notice, the folks made sure that all would know just who donated what and how much. Those generous folks had their names forever displayed for the entire world to see.

And wasn’t it grand and wasn’t it splendid that all the town could get together to give so generously, and graciously, to show their pride. Wasn’t it appropriate to have a patriotic project to use as a tax write-off to gain profit and publicity?

Tony entered his house on the new concrete ramp built especially for him as he was now missing both legs below the knees. He gazed at the sparkling bathroom and kitchen, and at the places his wheelchair could go he was dazzled with ease.

A few years down the road, familiarity bred indifference. The novelty wore off when there were more and more like Tony marching home. The people of Tony’s town came to ignore, even to despise, their handicapped pariah.

There were also times that Tony caught a glimpse of her in some far away parking lot — she had married and had children of their own. In return for her mountainous guilt, he no longer existed. She pretended not to see him — for her, he wasn’t there.

Even the small children, came to fear the freak named Tony. They only stared, mouths gaping wide open, with horror in their eyes.

Oh, what a lucky man, he was…

And then one winter day Tony’s parents passed away. He came face to face with loneliness, the townspeople didn’t want to pay for the sorry social care. Other than the visiting nurse, there was no one to care or talk to him. When society said, “What have you done for me lately?” and he could not find a job and his dreams tormented him — with visions of hell — he turned to alcohol, downers, and to pain pills.

He’d "been had" he woke up one day to realize; his precious youth was thrown away for the sake of war criminals in his own White House. At his formerly handsome face, the women no longer noticed. His old friends didn’t want to associate with him anymore. His pent-up rage went AWOL, when he drank even one beer. His pent-up rage went AWOL — and he became such a bore.

With 41 years in a wheelchair, one day Tony turned 60 — his feelings didn’t mellow — he became angrier still. He could barely contain his fury as he could no longer pay his bills.

But Tony could still dream. He was most alive when he was sleeping. Because that’s when he could once again be young, handsome, and standing tall. In his dreams he has legs, they are strong and they are healthy. Like a fabled young prince, he is dancing with her.

Because of what happened to his once promising life, so many times, he contemplated suicide.

He cursed God and hates Him for this living hell. To dim his suffering, he drank every night and every day. He privately wished that he had died in combat — so he could avoid this horrible fate.

That’s the true story of Tony the war hero — legless and alive at 19 years old.

Oh, what a lucky man, he was…

  • Elizabeth Gyllensvard contributed greatly to this article.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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