I wrote this poem recently after my first visit with the family of, and to the grave of, Silvestre Martinez Rivera, KIA Cambodia, May 14, 1970. I hope that it helps someone.

Dennis Hodo


I'LL SEE YOU LATER, BROTHER Very many years passed, and I could not forget, a man named Rivera, I was blessed to have met. We met in the jungle, I was new and scared stiff, He taught me survival, on those combat RIF'S. We lived in the jungle, with the heat, rain and mud, when friends were wounded, we even shared our blood. We carried food and water, We slept on the ground, we talked of "the world", when breaks came around. We guarded one another, all the days and nights, we never even thought about, brown, black or white. We shared our anger, our dreams and our fears, and when one of us was lost, we never came to tears. All this time has passed, and I still hear him say, "hey man", like he did, almost every single day. I don't know why, but I never got his photograph, yet a picture in my mind, followed all along my path. I could see that giant grin, the dark shining eyes, and hear the kind words, for all the poor new guys. there were others with us, men that we both knew, all barely twenty, hardly knowing what to do. When the shooting started, we protected one another, no one ever questioned, why I called you brother. The fighting started often, with a loud sudden burst, we learned so much of dying, mankind at his worst. Most of us came home, when our long year was done, but some of us didn't, and brother you were one. My memories never stopped, they never knew borders. I was the last you spoke to, except for giving orders, I remembered every man, that died there for the cause, but every day your memory, always gave me pause. Some days once or twice, and other days much more, I woke up every night, from the sounds of the war. I went to college, got married, and even had a kid, but few things ever got to me, like all that did. I tried so many ways, to get it all blocked out, but I never found anything, it never came about. So after many years, I looked it in the face, I never could outrun it, I'd never win the race. I took a trip the other day, across this big land, I came to your grave my friend, to visit a good man. I had to come and tell you, that I never will forget, I'll never know those ties again, I still haven't yet. I had to take the trip, I had to come and see you, it was just something, I always knew I had to do. It was such a constant feeling, it would never go away, until I made the trip, that I made the other day. I know that you watched us, from a much better place, when your family and I, did finally embrace. I didn't get to meet, your father or your mother, the family calls me family, your brother calls me brother. They know it means a lot, because it means a lot to them, but few will ever know, how it is where we have been. I know you're very proud, of the children that we bore, I want to let them know, the truth about our war. Television, radio, and the papers say we lost, they like to talk about, all the dollars that it cost. The movies have no limit, to the tickets they can sell, showing us coming home, and going straight to hell. I wish that they could see, the bigger point of view, the eternal bond of friendship, there is with me and you. We counted on each other, like few people ever can, and I know that forever, you will always be "a good man". We will stand-down again someday, for a very long time, we will R&R forever friend, and it won't cost a dime. There will not be any leeches, or any of that rain, there won't be any rifles, or bullets causing pain. We'll look down together, and hope with all our might, that the people of the future, can see that we were right. We cared about the children, the peasants and the poor, we went to fight their fight, and to open up the door. We went to bring them freedom, and basic human rights, but others were afraid, that they might have to fight. I remember how it was, in this very privileged land, there were so very few, brave enough to take a stand. To go to the jungle, and to try to stop the wrong, will our people ever see, why does it take so long? The politicians failed us, and the dodgers we forgave, then we just abandoned, all those we tried to save. All the vet's everywhere, bowed their heads in shame, most of them today, still bow their heads the same. There are names on a wall, that mean so much to us, because we know, they were people we could trust. You gave your life, so that others could survive, like me and many others, that today are still alive. I never could forget, and today I do know why, I need someday to find a way, to sit down and cry. I never have, I guess the war just made us tough, but when I do I'll cry, until I know it is enough. I will always try my best, to get through to the kids, what a great man you are, the important things you did. I will come again to see you friend, here at your grave, I'll do something good with this life that you saved. Let me tell you one thing, about coming here my friend, after all these years, I can finally sleep again. I'll never lose sight, of how we knew one another, I never will forget, I'll see you later brother.


Copyright © 1997 By Dennis L. Hodo, All Rights Reserved


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