How Can They Not Know?
By Christine Gangemi
How can they not know?
How can they not know of Brendan
who hid in the Rocky Mountains
from his memories
the hardened Marine -
now in tears
Of Ernie who came home
to a young wife who couldn't wait
for his healing
Of "Cochise" who returned to hide
behind his long hair and adopted name
to stand tall and proud
under the protection of a nation
Of Vince - the grunt who used his fighting skills
so his "peace loving" brothers could live
who still loves America
Of Mark who came home broken
in a bag
whose family was devastated
by their loss
How can they not know?
We never told them.
copyright © 1996 by Christine Gangemi, all rights reserved
As I got to the wall
A black wall with names
I could see young men through the black wall
Still in their uniforms and combat gear
Rifles in their hands
Like walking ghosts
All frozen in the wall
American men who died in Vietnam
"Why did you have to die and not I?"
But they didn't reply
Why did you have to die so young while I can grow old?
The young men started to disappear
Then they said "why"?
They'll never know the truth of the war in Vietnam
copyright © 1996 by Matthew Fox, all rights reserved
Platoons of teenage soldiers
Eyes of innocence
Discovering manhood through deaths
Fighting in rain saturated jungles
The visual -- lives crumbling
Imprints on the mind forever
All for a feuding country back home
The director continues to contemplate -
Experienced men - morally strong
Mentoring the young arrivals
Discovering manhood through accomplishment and hard work
The visual -- escaping enemy traps
Cleansing a war-torn country
He wonders: reality -- fantasy -- glory
How can he keep its integrity?
How far should the war be diluted?
copyright © 1996 by Daniel Penna, all rights reserved
By Jennifer Hibbins
Assuring liberty's survival We pay an irrevocable price-- Destruction, Hunger, Suffering, Death. Fires rage through happy, spirited villages Black smoke clouds the azure skies, filling the lungs of the rice paddies' farmers Soldiers wait in fear praying this day won't be their last, Alone in their barracks the young men sit in tears, questioning why protecting liberty is their burden to bear.
There has been one Congressional Medal of Honor left at the wall.
one star, hung from a blue pentagon of ribbon at the bottom of a sea of black granite names the only one ever left. letters, flowers, shoes, rings, keepsakes.
This-HonorTrudging through steaming jungles as invisible eyes watched Starving out the enemy igniting adhesive jelly to produce Pictures of clotheless children, screaming in terror. Drafted to never know what happened when friends disappear behind in line To glance back on an eerily quiet city, away from the deafening clack of the helicopter Leaving after six years, only to walk on deserted tarmac And get spit on once inside... You gave me this honor-- You can have this back. Left here for these letters engraved together to form my friends. Tom Bonner copyright © 1996 by Tom Bonner, all rights reserved
By Ken VanderVeer
copyright © 1996 by Ken VanderVeer, all rights reserved
At night I can still hear rounds going off, and I wake up in a cold sweat. I breathe in and out so fast, But my lungs just won't fill. These actions are only parts of dreams, But my dreams take on an eerie reality. My sweet sleep Is rocked by nightmares The sound of bombs exploding, Of land mines not far behind me Left echoing in my mind. These noises get louder and louder until I wake up, relieved that they didn't reach me. I still cringe When the shadow of a plane is cast on my face I hear the droning of the planes, I still can visualize the bomb dropping, And experience the impact with the bomb and ground I see friends dying from the blast, And feel the pain of their families Reading the note that ends hope and joy. I have lost the hope and joy long ago. I am lucky, for I still have my life. As I look back, I have finally found the reason For death and destruction. It is for future generations to see and study, To prevent new wars from taking place In the dreams of future leaders, While they sleep soundly At night. Kelly Graham copyright © 1996 by Kelly Graham, all rights reserved
Vietnam, I had no idea. I went not knowing. I saw beautiful green lands, covered up by tanks and dead bodies I did not know. Vietnam, I had no idea, I went not knowing. The birds sang when I first got there soon drowned out by bombs, gun shots, and cries of wounded soldiers I didn't know. Vietnam, I had no idea, I went not knowing. I made friends, I read their names on a wall now. I didn't know. Vietnam, I had no idea. I went not knowing The images there are illusions I know now. Deanna Thomas copyright © 1996 by Deanna Thomas, all rights reserved
Just when I think that it is all over it starts up again. The fighting, the deaths, your lives at risk. Every moment an emotion of tangle Phew-I'm alive. Oh S---, I'm going to die! I see the eyes of those I kill, and feel the hearts of the eyes that see, dying within mine. Bam Bam Bam you're dead, Bye Bye To us it's a common practice. Death is accepted. Saving lives is not a solution. The only solution is to kill back. Every step, so careful. We are all scared. Looking at each other with lumps in our throats, sometimes smiling and laughing, sometimes with tears in our eyes. but always scared. With every footstep our lives could be claimed. The pendulums in our hearts should have stopped, to be replaced with beats of thundering rain drops in our brains, and gunfire and choppers in our hearts, to keep us alive. From a distance we look like plastic, toy soldiers. spilled from a bucket in a child's backyard. So little, yet our cause is so huge. Right? At home where the air is clean and fresh, the pendulum still swings. Ours have stopped. We have fought, killed, and died. They are unaffected While a monster eats away at our souls making us foreign in our own country. Angela Varcasio copyright © 1996 by Angela Varcasio, all rights reserved
EVERYTHING IS RAIN THE DOWNPOURS CONSUME EVERYTHING AND bleed THE THICK GREENS OF THE FOREST INTO THE MUD, NOTHING CAN HIDE FROM THE RAIN, IT SOAKS OUR SKIN (our sins) DOWN TO VERY SOULS BLURRING THEM LIKE INK ON WET PAPER I HAVE BECOME NUMB AND HAVE LEARNED THAT DURING THESE STORMS THE LIGHTNING MAY STRIKE BUT THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY THUNDER, I MAKE THE THUNDER WITH MY HIGH-TECH WEAPON AND MY TRAINED WATCHER'S EYE, NO ONE SAID IT WOULD BE LIKE THIS crash EVERYONE NEEDS SOMETHING ALL I HAVE IS MY GUN EVERYONE NEEDS SOMETHING LIFE MAKER, LIFE TAKER IT DOESN'T MATTER I WON'T SURVIVE WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD. . . . . .SO WET WE ARE ALL JUST MUD. nic copyright © 1996 by nic, all rights reserved
Merry Christmas From Vietnam What a way To spend the Holiday, The funeral of my Brothers, All of them, Young lives stolen Before my jaded eyes. As my helicopter landed, Their lives ended. No time to say goodbye No time for tears, My emotions were exiled. At a slow pace I approached, The killing which awaited. These fields of my friends, All dead in some way, Made me hum Silent Night And pray that I would not be next. Wendy Cullings copyright © 1996 by Wendy Cullings, all rights reserved
Tribute to an Unknown Civilian
She must have been about six years old ...nameless... ...dead... dead even before they placed her in my arms Her body was cold She hardly even had a face But I could tell she was Vietnamese. A child of yellow skin--only she wasn't yellow she couldn't have been, because yellow is the color of happiness, gold, and the sun-- the death of an innocent girl is always gray and overcast. Her face and body were sticky-red from shrapnel wounds, fresh and oozing blood Red like hell. She was blackened with burns, probably from an explosion Black like the death I cradled in my arms. I asked myself, why am I here? I wanted to serve my country, to be a doctor preserving the health and strength of troops but patriotism can be an evil If human bondage and brotherhood are put to sacrifice. At that moment I wanted to go back home, Even though my homeland was guilty of murder. I wanted my mother to hold me close Against her breast, like she did when I was six years old and crying, because I had fallen off my bike and scraped my knee. Now a little girl was dead and I couldn't even find her mother, to hold and cradle her into the next life. The only one there to hold her close was me, Her enemy. I am so sorry, little girl. I probably knew the ------- who dropped the bomb on your home. I probably went out drinking with him on some rainy Saturday night, when you and your brother were listening as grandmother told stories, and your eyes were brimming with life. Now you are gone. I never thought of my buddies as murderers, but they are. We are. We came to Vietnam and did not see The demolished rice paddies, the conflagration of villages; We only saw the Vietcong lurking in green jungle, But every bomb killed a little girl like you. what were we thinking? I continued to hold her, and I wondered if her mother was alive somewhere. I prayed... ...dear God... make her an angel, give her happiness... wherever she may be... I continued to hold her until another doctor, who seemed annoyed and had blue eyes void of all emotion, took her body away. I sat motionless. I let her blood stain my boots and soak into my uniform. Michelle Fura
copyright © 1996 by Michelle Fura, all rights reserved
A TREK THROUGH VIETNAM
a far off place Africa? No, Asia either way, I've never held a gun before red and green are for Christmas not war blood gushing from green camouflage it could have been me the air is hot humidity will soon melt me like clay soon I will look no different than the mud on this forest path I trek over this land and I think of how it will be when others trek over me and how they will be next to me being trekked over as I was by them Sara Hill
copyright © 1996 by Sara Hill, all rights reserved
the rain comes in cool soft waves, making the land green running down the mountains to the valleys. it makes a puff of fog over a thick green carpet. it is a little emerald world a sparkling glittering gem a paradise. then more rain comes - a different rain - in harsh waves from camouflaged planes instead of a cloud carrying knives, grenades, guns and we are green. we run down the mountains to the valleys. we creep into villages and turn them red - the red runs down the mountains with us. the horrifying smell of death lingers around us no longer a paradise. an emerald with inclusions that appears beautiful but hides the truth and the truth makes me turn my head for I am part of it part of the rain crushing the gem paradise lost I am sick Allison Bailey
copyright © 1996 by Allison Bailey, all rights reserved
My parents married four months and eleven days before Pearl Harbor. Frank Clonan became Army MP, keeping the US safe from her own soldiers. Returning home four years later, five years married to a woman he didn't know, two years a father to a child he couldn't imagine, he slept drunk on the couch when we fled. My stepfather, as a Marine at Guadacanal, found a world to infest his drunk and sober dreams and terrorize our days and nights - the war became a psychotic kidnapper of family peace ready to strike at random always demanding ransom and never returning our aborted lives. Tom, high school sweetheart, he of the frantic backseat Catholic kisses, rushed to Vietnam - dead one year and six weeks after our commencement, 2nd Lieutenant USMC, Quang Tri Province, hostile ground action. He hoped we'd always be friends. We are. It's easier to live with a memory in peace than with haunted men. Carol Reynolds
copyright © 1996 by Carol Reynolds, all rights reserved
Who am I?
I go to the mirror-- Blond hair, sparkling blue eyes, tanned wide grin. "Who is that handsome fellow?" I laugh. Eighteen and in my prime. Almost finished with school, beautiful prom date, cool car, great friends. I know who I am. I go to the mirror-- Blond hair, doubting blue eyes, half a grin. "Who is that confused fellow?" I wonder. Eighteen and off to war. No more time for school, not going to the prom, car in the garage, goodbyes said to friends, pack my mirror in my bag. But still, I know who I am. I dig out my mirror and wipe off the dirt-- Dull, greasy hair, unfeeling blue eyes, sad smile. "Who is that dirty fellow?" I think. Eighteen and lost in a war. Rain and marching all day and night, guns, bombs, falsely cheerful letter home, bugs, disease, only friend dead. What I have seen, I can't erase. I don't remember who I was. I go to my mirror, back home at last-- Blonde hair, wide blue eyes, the occasional grin. "Where did that handsome fellow go?" I can't imagine. Nineteen now with nothing to show. Went to school, had my fun, went to war and lost what I knew. Nightmares haunt my sleep, sickness ails my body, visions plague my mind, no place to go. I lost the boy I was. Lauren DeFilippo
copyright © 1996 by Lauren DeFilippo, all rights reserved
My eyes tell the story-- With a single glance The reflection appears before me-- Slowly at first Consuming, devouring Tearing my mind up into shattered memories Forever burning, smoldering Their ashes scorched into my soul. My eyes remember-- Gazing back into that second pair of transparent eyes I am lost In the search for myself Penetrating the body with my stares Trying to uncover the dark concealed secrets Of what once was. My eyes see-- Only what had been Of the fear that shook my entire being Of the friends lost- The putrid stench of their bodies lingers - still The innocent faces of the children I helped Sacrifice All in vain. My eyes begin to focus Returning to the cold harsh reality Of the barrier-- Separating the two images I am joined by others Caught in a limbo Between past and present Stranded-- Struggling to reach the one On the other side of the wall. Sarah Marchitto
copyright © 1996 by Sarah Marchitto, all rights reserved
11 o'clock Memoirs of Vietnam
By Colleen O'Connor
It is around 11 o'clock at night A father climbs the stairs to go to bed, still contemplating a discussion he just had with his daughter About the evils of the world today But the man is not thinking of the 90s His mind has wandered back to the 60s Vietnam Bitterly he grits his teeth in remembrance Dinner was always served with a side of Walter Cronkite To show us the death and carnage of boys that could be strangers, could be friends, could be me The fear hanging in the air while waiting Watching the lottery in the student union To see if you won a death sentence #252, phew! Jaded by the knowledge that the death toll was not about honor or patriotism It was a corporate scam The government was no longer us It was them The man, his mind remembering, his heart heavy, shares his memories with his wife She remembers her father's feelings of disappointment and lack of respect for her brother Her father was shot in WW II and was awarded a purple heart Her brother managed to get a medical deferment From a surfing injury A tear came to her eye as she remembered standing in that student union Next to her future husband The wave of relief that washed over her when his number was so high She also remembered her friend Skelly Wheeling himself into the same student union that sent him away a few years earlier He left his legs in Vietnam Though Skelly had no legs, at least he had his mind The others that came back The dazed look in their eyes The resentful bite in their voice The feeling of betrayal and abandonment The purposelessness, the confusion, the fear She kneels down and prays beside her bed And prays the world will remember and learn from its mistakes not to repeat them.
copyright © 1996 by Colleen O'Connor, all rights reserved
The Steps To My Doom By Katie White
June 1, 1952 I saw it, heard it, and now it was echoing throughout my mind. Number eleven - it seemed like a nightmare come true. First anger strikes; how could this be happening to me? What did I do wrong to deserve this? Then reality hits; I'm going to war. Finally, sadness, confusion, being scared, the thought of death, all become a part of my long 24-hour day. Basic training comes and goes like summer vacation for a school child, and now the day is here. Boarding the plane, not knowing what to expect, all I could do was keep climbing the steps. - The steps to my doom. The long endless flight seemed to last for years, which was not long enough, The plane landed, hundreds of soldiers funneled through the plane door, Mouths hung open, no one blinked, we just roamed around aimlessly, staring out at the land. The time was here, Nam had arrived. We were escorted to a helicopter, then taken to a hooch in the middle of nowhere. New guys mixed in with old, replacing the killed, We quickly learned what to do and in the first week went into the jungle at least sixteen times. We fought all night - totally exhausted, No one slept nights for fear of what would happen if you closed your eyes. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and months turned to years. Walking through the jungle became old hat and shooting a gun was like a hobby I'd been doing for years. copyright © 1996 by Katie White, all rights reserved
On The Edge
Nightmares. Not a dream, but a reality. The reality of war. The reality of hell. Vietnam was a reality. Never ending Nightmares 25 years later. Vietnam is still a reality. The death is still a reality. The bombs hitting you. Hitting you in your sleep. Hitting you in the comfort of your home. There is no comfort. Never ending Nightmares Job after job. Fight after fight. There are no heroes. Just graves. Graves of fathers. Graves of brothers. Graves of sons and daughters. Never ending Nightmares When will the pain end. The pain will never end. The dead will never know. The living will never live. Vietnam was a reality and The Nightmares will never end BouJeloud Reed
copyright © 1996 by BouJeloud Reed, all rights reserved
By Bill Heilman
Beautiful villages with "napalm in the morning" a quick pan left and fade to black Showers of Agent Orange on brightly lit green jungles, men are getting wasted turning them into shadows of a memory not soon forgotten.
Vietcong in the shadows a slow pan left and a sound boost in the beat of a young man's heart. To make it feel like you're there we follow them in with hand held cameras; the cameras pan in and out to the view of a young man in anticipation, and explosion and a quick zoom into an enemy fallen to pieces.
A fade to black and this man's tour is coming to an end, fade to white and his tour of life is over Men fighting in a war for which the fighting could find no cause as they once did before, and in the end still no real understanding of why. . .
copyright © 1996 by Bill Heilman, all rights reserved
By Jessica Evans
(Inspired by the Novel "In Country" by Bobby Ann Mason)
I never even knew you But I always saw the green camouflage as if you were hiding Even in death you were afraid of your past Vietnam never meant to me what it did to you I never even knew you were there With all these secrets I tried to be angry, proud or ashamed then at our nation's capitol I bought seventy roses One for each panel Fifty-thousand names On a wall as black as night I never expected to see you there looking out at me
Names Fifty-thousand Farm boys, city boys but no protesting boys who paid to have those farm boys go for them go in country go to 'Nam leave The World Go to the jungle become infested with fleas breath in citrus smells Napalm smells like victory Farm boys from drought land living through the rain season Sliding in mud that is black black as night black as this wall From 1958 to 1975
I cried when I saw your name Your name on this wall, father I saw the shadows behind the names Fifty-thousand names I never knew you I never knew you had a place on this wall, father.
copyright © 1996 by Jessica Evans, all rights reserved