By "Top" Shultz


       Dedicated to the memory of SSG Carlos M. Rivera, June 1939-August 1968.

     "For however so long you live in the memory of but one man, you shall not die."

Slogging through the mire of shell-pocked roads,
Moving ever forward;
The cold sweat of fear running down my back,
God of war, don't let me be a coward.

It's not my first mission, won't be the last,
Cause that's what I'm trained to do;
To engage and destroy the other man,
Until this battle's through.

It started out so long ago,
Can't remember when or why;
With other young American Boys,
I raised my hand to the sky.

I swore allegiance to the flag,
To my country and my folks;
A soldier I'd be, live or die,
I was serious, that was no joke.

Away to training I was sent,
An infantry soldier to be;
I learned the skills to use in war,
I learned to kill, not flee.

There was no war in this distant past,
No way to test our skill;
So training we had every day,
Pretending to hunt and kill.

It was great fun, these games of chance,
Pranksters we became;
Seeking out a phony enemy,
Trying to put his unit to shame.

We were good at games, so razor sharp,
"Gung ho" was our name;
We were prepared to fight a war,
To win it without shame.

Then one day it all began,
Or so the headlines did proclaim;
We had a war in Vietnam,
It was time to play the game.

So, ship us out, the Army did,
Yes, we were on our way;
For a time of thrilling adventure,
In a foreign land we'd play.

I knew at once when we arrived,
From the greeting we received;
No matter the amount of training past,
We were thoroughly deceived.

The weather was hot, the air was rank,
With the smell of something new;
We seemed to sense the danger,
In what we had to do.

Up before dawn, to bed damn late,
So much training, we thought we'd drop;
Learning to survive in a jungle,
Even crawling through a swamp.

We slept with snakes and lizards,
Knowing this all too well;
Before we got to combat,
The elements might send us to hell.

By now, I was ready,
A horse chomping at the bit;
I was hungry to meet the enemy,
And, from this world omit.

Omit him from his lifestyle
Of killing us in green;
Rid him from this country,
Disable his killing machine.

Filled with a sense of adventure,
We set out at dawn;
We were there to seek and destroy,
What the Ho Chi Minh Trail did spawn.

Then we heard the crack of gunfire,
The snap of bullets in the air;
We'd reached our first encounter,
With the enemy in his lair.

It seemed to last forever,
I knew I'd soon be dead;
We couldn't see the damn guerrillas,
Didn't know that they had fled.

The world came back in focus,
Screams not far away;
The horror of the battle,
Made my stomach start to sway.

Friends I'd made not long ago
Were lying on the trail;
I said get up, get moving,
For we dare not fail.

Lay they did on that dirty ground,
Not a movement did they make;
I knew then they'd been wounded,
Death was in their wake.

The blood, the screams, the horror,
Made me want to turn and run;
I stayed and helped the dying,
And, convinced them that we'd won.

That battle seems like years ago,
So many since have left;
The shattered bones, a lifeless corpse,
Lay on their final bed.

Somehow, I'd survived,
A different fate I might have known;
The bullets, here they come again,
Better get down in the prone.

Suddenly, it's so quiet,
Has the battle come and gone?
Have we left another encounter?
For the end of war, I long.

But then I know it's different,
Feel the burning in my chest;
I know I've finally caught the big one,
Know my life has met it's crest.

I wonder as I lay there,
Fading thoughts are in my head;
Was it right to fight my fellow man,
Or should I just have fled?

The light is growing dimmer,
I know my time has come;
From my mouth I hear a whimper,
"God, I hope that we have won."

Copyright © 1992 "Top" Shultz, all rights reserved