Soldier – A Vietnam Vet Salute
by Bruce Majors
Vietnam is the backyard of his mind, an ancient
enemy he still fights. They only come out at night
or during the rainy season; black faces
greasy with hate.
NV Regulars infest the woods beside the lake,
punji sticks and dark holes holding
deadly snakes. And the tunnels . . . he remembers crawling
the tunnels with nothing more than a .45 and guts.
Cocaine and acid went into those tunnels.
Night awakens in a bed of sweat,
jungle rain, taste of gunpowder. Feet still hurt
from the fungus and the socks that rotted off
during the weeks trampling rice fields.
Once he spoke of sleep that overtook him
in a bunker the VC had built and how
friendly fire blew him out of his bunk.
Death so close no one breathed.
Lurches out of bed, belly flat on the floor,
waiting for a round to explode; sometimes the dreams so real,
he runs through the backyard screaming
at his stricken platoon.
But when the serum works, he is calm, almost normal.
In these times you know he is at peace, or, at least
the rage is under control. He has tried to be a good
father and husband, but they know never to ask him
about the war.
The person in this poem is a composite of Vietnam warriors I have known over the years. Some are personal friends, some are acquaintances, some I barley know, but all are heroes. They fought an unpopular war and, unfortunately, it was a politicians war; one that was never meant to finish. Many young men died in that war, and many were killed that didn’t die until years later. That’s because it was also a psychological war. A war not unlike the present Gulf wars that produced many casualties at home. I never went to Vietnam. I missed an opportunity to fight for, what was then, a saveable nation.
Vietnam Vets. I salute you.