I was meek and barely eighteen off to fight a war,
told to go and kill them, yet, not what it was for,
though reluctance stopped me, I finally had to choose,
headlines in the papers, casualties in the news.

Twenty-three hours of flying, I was tired and physically beat,
as the doors of freedom opened I felt the dampness and heat,
combat troops were marching, no laughter could one hear,
death in modern weapons and other miscellaneous gear.

There were young and old together, from all races and creeds,
here to fight the battles all in the name of world peace,
as a sergeant kept on yelling to depart with daring haste,
the thought was clear and evident we would learn to hate this place.

I was ordered to a ground beat, as most of us knew we would,
some said it would be misery, others said it could be good,
I had grown to hate such violence but my outlook would take a turn,
the many months that followed the word "kill" I had to learn.

Not days within this country and the agony had begun,
a mortar attack surprised us, pain in the scorching sun,
while placing concertina and beefing up the post,
they had left their fear among us, swift like a fleeing ghost.

With thoughts of waiting loved ones and mom's apple pie,
flares and machine-gun tracers lit up the Vietnam sky,
the regulars overwhelmed us, numbers screaming aloud,
their beliefs of impending victory, death among the proud.

They sacrificed their sinewy bodies, accepted our murderous fire,
numbers slowly diminishing, casualties still getting higher,
we exchanged precious friends, on both sides of this fight,
we knew hell was no different, yet this was just one night.

I saw feisty Earl Jackson hurtling through the air,
those once powerful extremities now no longer there,
and then the proud, young Kentuckian, one Robert Lee Wright,
ten months he'd dreamed of going home only to die that night.

After five lingering hours, explosions and painful screams,
we'd won the tested battle or so it would falsely seem,
we'd really survived a night, one of tainted horror,
only to be faced with it one hundred times and more.

As the months slowly passed and more of us quickly died,
Jane and fanatic followers were the ones who publicly cried,
we were fighting for our existence, living a worldly pain,
they returned to homes and comfort, we'd have to fight again.

Twenty killed today and what could we expect tomorrow,
how many would Uncle Sam have to beg, steal and borrow,
I came voluntarily, believing in a patriotic call,
so many died in my trembling arms not knowing why at all.

Modern medicine had accomplished much, the "docs" they really tried,
but science could only do so much for those of them that cried,
returning without an arm or leg or not being able to see,
how could one walk the streets and act so naturally?

I had survived the longest year, though in my tortured mind,
I never imagined the awful pain at home that I would find,
I stepped onto the tarmac, my country, the U.S. of A.,
the yelling crowds they spit on me, had nothing good to say.

A murderer, a rapist, a baby killer and more I was called,
to booze, drugs and hopelessness my life would slowly fall,
I had endured so much more than many could ever see,
yet psychological pain like this had taken strength from me.

No parades nor waving banners did I expect to observe,
but a smile, a hug, a handshake was the least that we deserved,
politicians called this a "conflict", to us it was the "WAR",
yet to serve in either honorably, who could ask for more.

As time slowly lingers, the more I sit and stare,
hoping one day America will take solemn notice and care,
that upon a wall of black granite, where names are now inscribed,
are 58,000 Americans who went and proudly died.

And to the countless, unnamed others who relive each frightful night,
of a year or more of madness, of blood, of screams, of fright,
to suffer not only the memories of a God forsaken war,
but those that come from countrymen that stand on a friendly shore.

Ralph Blessing


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