G.L. “Rocky” Fortner

ODE TO VIETNAM

Nearly forty years have come and gone since I became a man,
‘Twas in the heat, the rain, and blood of Southern Viet-Nam…
The battle scars run deep within the prison of my soul,
I’ll not forget the pain, the screams, and the horrors of it all…

We hailed from many backgrounds across this nation’s land,
Some dark, some light, some thin, some tall, that forged this noble band…
We were young and dumb, and full of pride, some though they’d never die;
For we were young Americans raised on Mom’s hot apple pie…

Aboard the ships we cleaned our guns and packed our bags to go,
Then Gunny yelled, “Let’s saddle-up, it’s time to start our show”…
Into the boats we stumbled… as the waves banged against the hull,
They snarled, and dipped, and rolled, and tossed our stomachs in a ball…

A whistle blew, the engines roared, and suddenly we knew,
‘Twas time to stand and lock and load and pray for me and you…
As all the boats formed up on line and headed for the shore;
My thoughts would wonder back to days… gone now forever more…

Little things… came back to me, reflecting on the past,
Like high school girls and football games, the smell of fresh cut grass…
The time I made the track team and became a rising star,
My first drink of ‘hard stuff’ in some Okinawa bar…

Then shots rang out, the ramp went down, now we’re standing in the sand,
Confusion all around us was our first day in “The Nam”…
A scream was heard: then someone fell and vanished in smoke,
I knew then this was not a dream, a fantasy, or joke…

I’d never seen men blown apart… or die so painfully,
Don’t be surprised, or full of doubt, I’m just a kid you see…
Still in our teens were most of us that stepped up to the plate,
And swore that we would never fail to serve our Nation great…

While poised within torrential rains, our feet forever soaked,
We laughed, we cried and drank warm beer, and bummed another smoke…
We’d count the days that we had left… but each seemed like a week,
It’s tough sometimes to contemplate the things of which I speak…

The heat, the rain, and smell of blood, gunpowder on our clothes,
Young men who share a special bond no other creature knows…
Those gallant boys and men I knew, so daring, young, and brave,
So many now lay silently, at peace within their grave…

But what of those that made it home, when all was said and done;
Were we considered heroes… or a Nation’s bastard sons?
Our lives were scarred forever, yet we were never welcomed home,
There were no bands or big parades, nor yellow ribbons shown…

And so we all pretended that it never really mattered,
That all our dreams and inner self… forever had been shattered…
We faded into history, a band of brothers true,
And tried to make a life within this nation torn in two…

We often drown our sorrows in some local crummy bar;
Pretending it was all a dream, not part of who we are…
But realizing all the while the impact that it made,
On each and every one of us – these memories never fade…

No matter what the public thinks we did or didn’t do,
The truth lies deep within the soul of troops like me and you…
We did our time and fought the war that never really was;
We stood our ground and raised our flag for a noble, worthy cause…

Be proud to know we did our part and sealed therein our fate,
In spite of all the diatribe, indifference, and the hate…
Who knew what we were called to do… would rarely seem to matter,
But all would stand the test of time for those who fought the battles…

And now with gray and thinning hair, my waist expanding well,
I flashback to those yester years, a lifetime spent in hell…
For we all… have a legacy to share with anyone,
Who contemplates the trials of war that kills our Nation’s sons…

America the Beautiful, God shed His grace on thee,
But don’t forget the price we’ve paid, ‘cause freedom’s never free…
Now stand with me and raise your glass to names upon the wall,
And pray that they died in vain for answering the call…