One of the few things I can remember my father telling me about his time in Vietnam came after a long meal at a Lebanese restaurant in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. During dinner we’d been talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the former of which was raging less than 600 miles from us, and he took the long way back to his house so we could finish the conversation. We pulled into his driveway and, still not satisfied, my father turned off the car and we just sat there, in the dark and the midnight heat.
"One of the worst parts about my life," he said after a few moments, "is that you will never know the man I was before I went to that war. You’ll only ever know the guy that came back, and that breaks my heart more than anything else."
It seemed like more of an apology than a statement, and I stayed up all night thinking about it, in the darkness and the heat, thousands of other people’s fathers killing and dying a few hundred miles away.