By Robert "Jungle Vet" Baird
(This One's For Harry)
That day grew molten as we humped in the bush,
Ahead, the point man alerted and signaled to "shush."
Behind him, I crouched down and faced off the trail.
The jungle fell quiet and still, the moment was frail.
The ambush was sprung, both up and down our line,
By command detonation, the V.C. set off the mine.
My world erupted around me, deafness closed off my ears,
And night slammed in upon me, I was lost with my fears.
When we are young, we do NOT comprehend
How narrow the line we walk, unto even the end.
We fail to see ahead, past all the cock and bull,
We all just KNOW we are immortal, youth invincible.
When the fighting was over, they said I looked green
But soon turned shock pale, then cried for morphine.
A medevac casualty, I lost my gamble with fate,
Especially in surgery, not much left . . . amputate.
Until that time in my youth, my sweat ran pure,
Now it is stale and musky, borne of a need to endure.
It's been years since the heat and the pain of that blast,
But I've cried for each day as it has dwindled past.
I've cursed the world's population and all of its men,
And every mother who bore them and all of her kin
For leaving me here, the way that I am,
From that single moment...that moment in Vietnam.
You may perceive me as bitter and THAT I sure am,
But did YOU ever serve even a day in Vietnam?
For those of you who will never know how,
Each day is a struggle, more than ever now.
Then there's the scars none of you can ever see
Bowel resections and dialysis for a single kidney.
Chained to a machine to cleanse out my blood,
And dependent on others to clean up my crud.
Covered in shrouds of pain, it's been so hard to see,
Stone drugged by that shit they've pumped into me.
You must know that it hasn't been an easy road,
And not one of you should have to carry my load.
Therapy sessions through long Winters and Summer,
Spring and Autumn in agony, "MAN, what a bummer!"
Needles, nurses and clinics, "GOD! It hurts just to live!
Lord, how much more, how much more must I give?"
I care not for those who boast they have beaten the clock,
I care only for those who walked, like me, the hard walk.
My body may anchor me down, but I still tell my tale,
And yes, it's a thousand times worse than being in jail.
Freedom is gone, my independence in dreams,
In this chair, Hell on wheels, endless it seems.
Life has dealt me a burden--yes, a ponderous weight,
But not more so than on my wife, my glorious mate.
Yet, it is she and my comrades who give me my strength,
Those compatriots and grand allies, sharing life's length;
Above all others stands my lady's bravery, tall and most proud,
She has endured my worst evil, not complaining ever, out loud.
I feel guilt from surviving, to have been one who returned,
More than one time, believe me, I have so often yearned
To join my Brothers, whose names honor that Wall,
There I could rest and once again could stand tall.
To end it all, I've attempted--once, yes, even twice,
But I failed, as it should be, now take my advice;
"Let Providence find you when comes the final end,
Trust in love to get you through, believe it, my friend."
I'm a Vietnam Veteran, wounded, a double amputee,
But, for the Grace of God, my friend, you could be me;
And for those who are blind and will not see,
Believe me, they are mortal . . . mortal like me.