John D. Casey
I STILL LOVE YOU ALL
The people, the places, the names, the faces,
Twenty-four years on they haunt me still.
Not those I shared a tent or a beer with,
But the friends I left behind to face a bleak unknown.
On this day when other veterans are celebrating their return,
And remembering those who paid the ultimate price,
My mind still returns to the ones who sought my help,
And to whom in the end I could offer nothing but defeat.
These are the ones I remember on this day of days,
The only ones from that time who really matter to me.
Your country and your lives were being torn asunder,
And my country stood back and silently watched you suffer.
Where are my fellow servicemen? Of most I don’t care,
They did what they were paid to do, no more and no less.
Then returned home again, with their duty done,
Of you and your country they had but sneers and harsh words.
I left you there, among the rice paddies and villages,
Left you hoping I would return to bring you solace.
But I never returned from the safety of the country of my birth,
A country for which deep down I felt nothing but contempt.
I love my family with all my heart and that will never change,
But it is different to what I feel for you, my other loved ones.
The ‘family’ I was forced to turn my back on, to leave behind,
To never again feel your love, see your smiles and trusting eyes.
That is the greatest hurt, those eyes looking at me with hope,
But in the end finding nothing but abandonment and loss.
Did you come to believe I was also just doing my job,
Then returning home to safety and a life of ‘normality’?
Somewhere in your hearts, if indeed they are still beating,
I hope you have found the ability to forgive me.
Because deep down in my heart, I can never forgive myself,
For offering you all so much and delivering so little.
I couldn’t even find the time to answer your letters,
To try and let you know that you were never forgotten.
And tell you that with all my being I longed to return,
To once again offer you the hope of security and peace.
Some may say that I was only one among many who served,
And being only one I could make very little change.
But you gave me your trust and shared with me your lives,
And believed I could help make the final outcome different.
Perhaps someday if we meet in that limbo of death before rebirth,
I will try to explain to you my years of pain and torment.
Try to make you see that I could do nothing but watch you die,
Knowing that with each of your countrymen a piece of me died as well.
Forgive me Thuy, Xuong, Rong, Cho, Nuns, teachers and children all,
Accept my hope over all these miles that you have now found peace,
Or that you rest in the bosom of your ancestors who went before you,
Because in the hope of your forgiveness I may be able to forgive myself.
One day if fate decrees it, I will return to your beautiful land,
and try my best to seek out your fate, whatever it may have been.
Knowing the job will not be easy will never turn my mind away,
Because it must be better than the unknown that plagues me now.
Perhaps it is only a foolish man’s errand, so many years on,
But to find out about my ‘family’ I would risk life itself.
Because not knowing is a worse fate than any death could be,
And to continue life this way is to be half dead anyway.
If God is watching I ask for his help just this once,
And his forgiveness for all the many wrongs of my past.
I seek his guidance with my heart, my soul and my mind,
To unite these two different races, and make my family whole.
©Copyright August 19, 1995 by John D. Casey