David R. “Poppa” Alexander


On a muddy LZ in Vietnam, about the 20th of June:
Waiting for the choppers for me and my platoon.
Across the LZ I spot a friend of mine Lt. Jake.
We meet half way across the field for a last minute handshake.

Jake reminds me that we will meet back in the world
Says he might even introduce me to a nice girl.
With a halfhearted grind, ask that if he dies to check on his family for him.
With a slap on the back and a: I’ll see you, don’t be so grim.

But don’t worry Jake you know I’ll do what you ask.
No one could do any less and such a small task.
Little did I know how wrong I was:
As this poem unfolds, you will see the cause.

It’s been a very long day and after making sure the perimeter was secure
I take my turn on watch until about midnight, I’m not sure.
Lying back on my ruck sack for my head
I’m asleep as if in my very own bed.

In the living room are my parents, bother, sister and grandmother,
Watching television and enjoying the evening like any other.
I can’t understand why they can’t see me,
Funny I’m right here in the corner of the room can’t they see?

Dad has his arm around mom what does he envision?
Brother and sister are silent as they watch the television.
Grandmother is asleep in her recliner, at peace, as she should be.
I still can’t understand why they can’t see me.

I move around and speak to my dad but not a sign of his hearing.
Through the door I can see a wooden triangle in the kitchen table center clearing.
What is that? I can walk into the kitchen and find that the triangle encases a flag.
In one corner of the triangle is a picture of me, attached as if a tag.

What does this mean? I’m not dead, I must be dreaming.
A knock at the door and on the other side stand two Army officers buttons gleaming.
They are talking to dad and have a piece of paper of gild.
Dad turns to tell mom, “Jake has been killed”

What? Why did they come to tell my parents of someone they barely know?
Dad and mom met him only twice and that was over a year ago.
They aren’t family to Jake, no relation at all, and Jake’s family they are robbing.
Dad has tears running down his face and mom is sobbing,

I don’t understand this, Jake can’t be dead: I just saw him two days ago.
What am I doing here? I’m supposed to be in Nam, I must go.
Then I notice I have on jungle fatigues, muddy boots and my M-16 in my hand.
I seem to be floating in the air, not touching the ground, I just don’t understand.

A firm grasp of my shoulder, a gentle shake and I’m awake;
It’s Private Barnes waking me just before dawn and no noise did he make.
We must move out before the sun comes up
I have a drink of water from my cup.

We move on and soon the dream is out of mind
But again that night the same one is back to remind.
Night after night for about a week or so
The same dream, the same ending, why I do not know.

Then on about the six or seven day later I got word
We met a platoon from the 173rd
I wanting to know everything I could find out
I ask their platoon leader if he knew of Lt. Burns and his whereabouts.

His answer came with a stab to my heart
He said he really didn’t know where to start.
Jake and his men were ambushed and he had been killed.
A brother and a friend lay dead and a family he had just started to build.

This dream comes back to me still today
I never understood the meaning or why it started that way.
But I know that Jake was a friend and brother until the end
And no one can ask for anything better than to have a friend.