I have just finished resurrecting and resubmitting s short story of mine published many years ago called “The Nug.” It’s based on my experience working with soldiers on the battlefield during the Vietnam war. In the story, a news reporter on assignment with the troops in Vietnam helps three soldiers build their new enlisted men’s club, where the men can relax and drink. By the end of the story, the Tet Offensive has been launched. The club has been destroyed by enemy artillery fire, two of the three soldiers have been killed, and the third has lost a leg. The reporter grieves alone.
The title of the story comes from GI slang I learned in Vietnam. A “nug” was a new guy. As one of the characters in the story explains to the reporter, a nug is a new girb—that is, a new GI rat bastard—“a new troop. A tenderfoot. A new guy. Wet behind the ears. Can’t find the latrine or his ass in the dark.”
The character of the reporter is, of course, based on myself. The soldiers are drawn from men I knew on the battlefield. So many of them didn’t survive. Their loss is an enduring wound to my soul.
I wrote “The Nug” to memorialize the young soldiers killed during the Vietnam war and to vent my own grief over them. Rereading the story all these years later reminded me that my sorrow is still with me and always will be.