David R. “Poppa” Alexander

THE COST OF COMBAT

Early morning haze, humid and damp
Any move or noise could be heard for seems like miles.
Clothing damp from the night’s dew
An eerie stillness settles in and those awake can feel the danger.

Slowly the sunlight creeps in and the dampness is still around
There isn’t a noise, strange, no noises from the jungle
neither a bird nor animal can be heard
Because of the dense foliage and canopy at noon little light will be seen.

Most are now waking up and their combat experiences make them be still
With eyes wide and ears alert all are strangely on edge
We haven’t seen the enemy in over three days
A time that feels like an eternity after being in the boonies for so long.

How uncomfortable we are
Hungry, damp, our skin feels sticky from the dew and humidity
Knowing that you can’t keep a round in the chamber of your M-16 overnight
The round will swell and your rifle will fire only one time, as the round won’t eject.

Tense, weary and tired, but we must be oh so careful now
All are combat veterans of at least a month
You learn fast here or you die
You try not to let your mind wonder as you sit and wait for the unknown.

Your mind plays tricks on you
Was that a sound? A stick break – or just a ghost noise?
The longer we wait the worse it gets
How can one explain the anguish of the mind here in this jungle?

Over an hour now and still nothing
Every last man knows that there is something, or someone our there
Putting ones finger on the feeling isn’t so easy, just by experience do we know.
We must move, can’t live out your life sitting in a jungle afraid, yes afraid.

Again, slowly we gather our things and crawl toward better cover
As we move a round is chambered in each rifle.
Whew, we make it to the dense underbrush where there are several fallen trees.
Still no noise, no sounds from the jungle.

Maybe we are all just tired and over cautious,
Maybe we are just combat-weary and in a while we can laugh about our fears.
Maybe but not today, a sudden crack of an AK-47 a noise you can’t mistake
And we are engaged with the enemy we knew was there but couldn’t see.

The uncomfortable climate, the sticky skin, the damp humidity are forgotten
A bullet hitting a log throwing splinters in your eyes will make you forget.
We all are engaged, we all are fighting, we all are thinking of one thing
Kill the enemy before he kills you.

No longer are we hungry, no longer are we tired, no longer are we afraid
We just don’t have the luxury of fear, hunger or being exhausted
We once again have chosen wisely and our vantage point has served us well
For once no deaths, no injuries, but there are causalities, but they are in our mind.

As fast as it started it is over
We have learned long ago not to chase Charlie in his own backyard.
We gather our things and slowly, cautiously move out and find a place to rest and eat.
That is the life of an Infantry Soldier in Vietnam.

No glory, no glamour, no hero, no romance
No rest, no hot meal, no time to reflect
Maybe if lucky, a can of C’s, and a cigarette
A moment to thank God for your protection, a thought of home and then moving again.

No cost you say, no cost?
Maybe not then, maybe not while in combat
Then again maybe we were too stupid to know
But the cost comes later, when you are safe, free and if lucky you are home.

The Cost? How about years of sleepless nights?
How about the cost of losing your wife because she just can’t put up with you anymore?
How about the cost of one’s own sanity?
No, there was no cost I guess, but don’t ask a wife, mother, or father about the cost.

Submitted for the November 2003 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Cost