Look at me now! Nearly half a century wise and old am I.
I remember few of the days that passed and quickly said good-bye.
Yet Vietnam seems a crystal image through all that ethereal haze.
How long ago? Twenty five years, count ten thousand common days.
But not so for thirteen months, a young Marine, that tour in Nam of mine.
Time, a kaleidoscope for a year, from ‘68 in the spring, through May of '69.

"In-country" was out of this world, no sanity, no reason, chaos in its purest form.
Dumped off at a transit point, not knowing what to do, the calm before the storm.
The sour smells, urine, garbage and rotting fish and smoke from every ville.
The suspicious eyes as they all turned away, I can remember their look still.
The heat, it surrounds you, invades you, tries to melt you. How can I stand it here?
This is just the first day, the first week, the first month. I still have more than a year!

Raw boots of leather, loaded weapons, exhausted Marines with that distant look.
Can I become one of them? Will I measure up to things that never made the book?
Said the young Lieutenant, "Just do your job, listen well, and always stay alert."
I learned how my Brothers walked and how they talked and kept from getting hurt.
Like green phantoms we stalked the bush or sat bored observing from mountain tops.
We hunted and killed our enemy, man, and watched as old women tended crops.

The sound of Hueys, their rotor blades struggling through the stagnant air.
They dropped us off, we walked the silent bush, pretending we were not there.
F-4 Phantom jets shattered the quiet night, and tore blazing trails across the sky.
Our pointman stepped off to the left, and I off to the right. Now, can you tell me why?
A Phantom crashed somewhere out there, and now is scrap and turned to rust.
My Bro the pointman, triggered a mine, and disappeared and turned to dust.

Many served for extended tours and some toured less than I,
Some men earned the Purple Heart, and some of us did die.
‘Tis true that I did not pay anything near the greatest cost,
but neither did I return without the feeling of something lost.
How much of my existence since that time, has gone so slowly past?
Still I relive that tour of mine, from the first minute to the very last.

Both the Phantom crew, and the Bro I knew, are honored on the Wall,
and I visit there and on occasion dare, to stand there proud and tall.
I remember them, in my own way, the bad with the good, sometimes it makes me smile.
To have known such men must surely make my life complete and all the more worthwhile.
Why I survived and they did not is a question for sages to task and prudently ponder.
The fates I tempted only once, when I took that tour of mine. But always I must wonder.

~ Jungle Vet '95 ~

Copyright © 1995 by Robert W. Baird 1/1D, 1st Platoon, Team "West Orange"