I’m just a soldier. A lonely soldier
Protecting my country’s present. Preserving our future
Combating hours of sheer boredom my brain drills
Punctuated moments of sheer trepidation fills
I’m an infantrymen dancing with devils
With comrades combating dangerous evils
Under the pale moonlight
Where demons come out at night.
My band of Foxhole Brothers
Share sovereign allegiance with others
Different men from different walks of life
Strangers wagering life in Nam’s strife
Strangers met in a motley band of destiny
Strangers hailing from different parts of the country
Sent by countrymen to do the best we can do
Strangers bound as one, to do or die for me and you.
Semper Fidelis sons of liberty
Forged together by bastions of democracy
Brother’s tall, broad, or short
White, black, brown, red, yellow cohort
Just young boys on a big campout
Sent with patriotism’s hue and shout
To the ancestral home of disenchantment
To rewrite the old soldier’s song of abandonment
Songs sung in disillusionment suffer bereavement.
We’re the best of men… the worst of men
All bearing humble vestiges of bravery
Come from far across the heartbreak sea
Sent by our neighbors the demagogue to kill
Or by a dictator’s wrath be killed
Rancid terror’s in the spirit sear fetid fear
Stinking on every bated breath
We herald the bestial monster, death.
These boys… brothers… gave their all
Charging into the mouth of the monster’s maw
Just ordinary men gone to war
Like so many others gone before
Forged from boys fighting… dying
Valiant men for God and country
Winning a beaucoup sweet-and-sour memory
Stouthearted men sent abroad to stand for liberty.
Just ordinary Joes, farm boys, bakers
Businessmen, salesmen, construction workers…
Soldiers in anguished smoke of battle’s pall
Put their body in harm’s way in defense of all
Suffering sore privations
Beaucoup trial by fire tribulations
Humping the boonies to keep you free
To win righteous victory for you and me.
Just boys caged within sight of dying
Seek miracles with death all-round preoccupying
Defying fates wearisome deprivations
Beaucoup afflictions manifest in sore illusions
Heartbreak predestinations sorely chafed
Walking in footsteps of dusky men enraged
Peaceful thoughts shadowing anger inflamed
Dedicated to the precept of killing engaged.
Sweat runs from boyish brow’s fevering
Violence in devastation fair youth stealing
Incensed being’s hammered indignant
By fetid evil omnipresent in jungle repugnant
Unleashing vivid vengeance Post Traumatic
Death all round gory dramatic
Wearing an ireful cross of thorns
Caught on a devil’s enraged horns…
The Kentucky Colonel
Our illustrious platoon leader
At first blush looking too sleight… too tender
The Kentucky Colonel, way too young
He initial trepidations brung
Looking exceeding sophomoric
Not ‘xactly leaving veteran’s euphoric
Doubting his maturity and judgment
Pondering his fighting temperament.
Veterans wondered quietly aloud
Rumors festering in the belligerent crowd
He could get us quickly killed
By dusky marauders drilled
If in his boyish innocence
He could not lead us out of the darkness
Have us charging into the mouth of a machine gun
Would he be a naïve gung-ho ‘fortunate son?’
Real fears proved grossly unfounded
Our beloved Platoon Leader well grounded
Exceeding maturity and judgment amenable
The men soon revered our leader venerable
To his men he was a soldier’s soldier
This consummate warrior
Earning in retrospect
From the troops beaucoup due respect.
The Kentucky Colonel was one of us
Fighting beside us
Caring for more than self in Nam’s little fuss
Melding different personalities into one
His primary goal to make sure his ordained sons
Returned home safe from the land of guns.
The Wisconsin Tinman and the New Joisy Troop
The tinman’s one hell of a fightin’ man
A Green-Bay Packer fan
A stogie smokin’, aluminium making, bogyman
A genial good friend to brothers
But a tough as nails fiend to others
His cherubic cheeks on joking insists
His jolly countenance belying the danger in his fists
Intent on bringing the hurt to the jungle mists.
The tinman’s my foxhole mate
His jolly countenance seems unconcerned with fate
Figuring what will be… will be
So why hurry. Take life as it comes, no worry
He’s a prank playing, hard drinking devil
Bound and determined to stomp out evil
Without compunction, if it crosses his path today
In the Nam’s motley variegated fray.
The New Joisy boy’s a mailman that delivers
Seeming unabashed by war’s great dangers
This tall, blond drink of water
Unfazed by war’s deadening anger
Just doing his duty just because…
Without hesitation or pause
Standing tall in battle’s rigor
He handles combat chores with fervent vigor.
The New Joisy boy knows why he’s here
His duty within him crystal clear
His waters run deep
In his blue eyes leap
Behind a winning smile
Humping with quiet concern many a long mile
A thinking, easygoing man well educated
A sophisticated student of the war implicated.
Both men came to the Nam’s sleepovers
To give Vietcong the M-60 shivers
Toting beaucoup firepower to inspire
Ammunition bandoliers crossing both chests dire
To rock Charlie’s world with withering fire
Having no other choice from echelon’s higher
They were their Uncle Sammy’s hire
Determined to defend the rights of man
Doing their conscientious duty in Vietnam.
The Smoky Mountain Boy
He came from the Great Smoky Mountains
Where simple life on a simple boy ingrains
Verdant mountain green and smoky haze
Far from the big city craze
Where the master on high’s good life ordains
Born in shadowed ranges never knowing stress or strains
This Blue Ridge Mountain boy
Knowing no fear to hurt or annoy
Till the Nam…
This Shenandoah whelp
Never needed nobody’s help
For he’d scouted the Blue Ridge valleys verdant plains
Feeling on his skin gentle Appalachian rains
His gun borne as an appendage
A part of himself with right handy Kaintuck windage
Stalking rabbit and deer
Far and near
Hunting squirrels to grace his ma’s frying pan
But he never killed a man…
Till the Nam…
He became hard and lean and mean
The fiercest fighting machine the Nam’s ever seen
A sure-shot sobered by battle’s killing surprise
Hard flint-like death glinting in sunburned eyes
Granite cankered in a heart that slowly dies
His Shenandoah soul by fevered blood jaded
Engorged by fear-drawn anger withered
Danger engorged to which this veteran’s no stranger
Not trusting no one, ‘cause that Shenandoah whelp
He never needed nobody’s help…
Till forever changed by the Nam…
The Boy from Tuscaloosa Locked at the Hip to a Boy from Jackson County
These golden haired sons of the south
Honey dripping in every word from their mouth
The salty, barefoot rebel from Tuscaloosa
From rising banks of Alabama’s Tallapoosa
Locked at the hip to a boy from Jackson County
Both spoke with drawling southern bounty.
Southern boys with down-home-earth values
They very souls singin’ the blues
Hailing from a better time, that this time forgot
Gentler times by antebellum winds wrought
Bore a distinctive redneck
Hold down deep convictions, by shuckey-darn heck.
These cotton pickin’ admirals
May seem to y’all rough as a cob morsels
With they’s southern-fried morals galore
Never hanker’d to be in no cotton-pickin’ war.
They’d surely rather be huntin’ coon
Than sweat’n in the Nam’s dinky-dau monsoon.
With healthy dollops of bread-and-butter ethics
Bore ‘longside grits ‘n beans these rustic bucolics
Wore they’s cotton-pickin’ convictions
Nevah with no derelictions
Sewn on shirtsleeves strong
Jes’ good ol’ boys, true’s the day wears long.
These loyal, depend’ble, patriots evah faithful
Cotton pickers for the good life ’at bore them grateful
Though betimes boisterous, unruly ‘n rowdy
Be good men to have ‘longside y’all in-country
Fate’s played ‘longside theys life-n-death foxhole
Hangin’ on the string of a chicken-fried soul.
The Texas Blue-Chipper
The Texas blue-chipper
A can’t-lose athlete of highest caliber
Just a longhorn football bebopper
Who loved the thrilling life of the Gipper
Making touchdowns with ease all the time
Three yards and a cloud of dust through the line
Knocking opponents to their knees
With the greatest of ease…
With only a little grime and sweat
He loved the good life, you bet
The parties. The girls
With those pretty little curls.
The Texas blue-chipper
Loved being courted by a rich alumni backslapper
Who told him he’s the king of the world
The greatest thing since sliced bread unfurled
Everybody knew his name
He rode the crest of a football hero’s fame
This boy whose daddy was a sharecropper
Now no longer a country bumpkin clodhopper
He truly loved being the big man on campus
The lights, the action, the ruckus.
The Texas blue-chipper, so big… so strong
A man-mountain who knew he’d belong
Held his patriotism in his head all along
Singing liberty’s song, he answered the call
Knowing he’d soon whup them all
Show those bad-guys making such a fuss
They’d better reckon with us…
But then… in a firefight… he simply died
Shot suddenly… mistakenly by guys on our side
Laid in blood and guts and dust his pride
No parades. No fanfare belied.
Only his mother and brothers cried.
The Okie from Muskogee
A strapping Arkansas River boy
His sweet mother’s pride and joy
Simple pleasures of rich red earth
Red River plains known from the days of his birth
The Supernal peace there especially sweet
Alive on Oklahoma’s rolling plains of waving wheat.
Peace rose in the flaming Oklahoma sunrise
Working this earth’s bounty his sacred prize
Finding deep serenity in the crop-cycle of rebirth
Receiving God’s blessings of celestial worth
He was with Mother Earth one
Working hard out under the golden harvest sun.
The Okie from Muskogee
Sent a far from home, hearth and family:
Cherishing his Ozark spirit’s divine nature
Astride his John Deere tractor
Spending many a good, good day
Sacred in every way.
He tilled his fields till the work was done
Sweating under God’s own sun.
Till that rueful day Uncle Sam
The man what am
Handed him a man-killing gun
From which he couldn’t run…
He had only just learned to live
This war’s voluntary captive
He only knew the good life before bloody war
He’d only hunted for the supper pot afore
Then he learned to kill
Kill them before they could him kill…
He killed to preserve the crop his parents sow
To preserve waving green fields of boyhood meadow
Yet he learned to fear war’s grim undertow
That in his Okie heart did malignant grow
The war following him home in ever-present shadow
Seeing in every dusky man a malignant foe.
Indeed, friendships are priceless
Born on the plains of innocence
Fast, tight friendships even war will tend
Brotherhood bound together will never end
Though cruel death will sometimes friendships rend
“It don’t mean nuthin’” was the veteran ode
“Never forget” was this Okie man-of-war’s code.
Now he’s afraid to go out in his field
Fearing the inky shadows unhealed
Out where heat and wind on fragile mind congealed
Where deep love of the land did to great horror yield
Form flashbacks due to horror’s ugly pain
To light up his fevered mind again… and again!
War fed him a constant diet of danger
His boyhood soul filled with raging anger
Finding hate in every stranger
For fate laid in a tree-line berth
Death patiently always awaiting war’s costly dearth
Now he even pauses at the rich-red earth
It reminds him of blood spilled rusty brown
To drown dreadful thought he must go to town.
He contemplates the once hallowed ground
Look up… look down… look all around
For death unseen will surely reach up and bite you
To all life for an Okie eschew
Fear still the crack of a bullet’s speed
Causing the shattered soul to slowly bleed.
Boy with a Perpetual Rocky Mountain High
His soul touched the sky in his eighteenth year
O’er his Rocky Mountain elation dear
Rejoicing with innate life in deep celebration
The Rocky Mountains born in masterful creation
He’d seen rain with fire from the sky
Deeply loving his Rocky Mountain high lullaby.
He rejoiced in a life abounding good
One with the sky and twinkling stars in pristine brotherhood
Thrilling his soul
His Rocky Mountain majesty ace in the hole
Creviced in Rocky Mountain sacred alters
Patriotism fostered by eagles never falters.
From his purple mountain majesty he loved this land
Would for all its magnificence make a stand
He went gladly to liberty’s precepts defend
To fight for the abiding peace he found on high
Under an azure blue sky
Peace born in a wildflower’s purest sigh.
He could see mankind’s hallowed destiny
Waving solemnity in a wind so wildly free
Feel the inherent spirit that made him be
Freedom blowing mid flora and fauna profusion
Daily feeling of beatified illusions
Hearing clearly all sacred in nature’s eloquent effusions.
Heroic glory sang in his ear
Feeling reverential duty devoutly clear
He offered his staff of life so dear
Buried it in the heart of foreboding fear
Shucking off trepidation’s drear…
He packed up his gear.
He enlisted into Nam’s vale of harms
Answered his country’s call-to-arms
He went across the heartbreak sea
To be all that he could be
Where the Nam’s fervid jungles,
Rocky Mountain stars in his eyes replaced
By boys beside him by the blood defaced.
He did solemn duty with red curdling in his eye
Seeing too many good men crumple and die
Cruel war horrible beyond what he expected
His worst nightmare’s resurrected
So this war weary veteran turned inward to survival
Turned bitter from war’s macabre carnival
Life forever by masochistic trauma rearranged
His life boomeranged… eternally, forever changed.
The Man of Pittsburg Steel
Flowed in a brother’s soul bloody real
Coursing molten white-hot steel in his veins
Forged tough with his countries pains
Cast strong in the iron-geared mills of war
Come to fight like his pappy did before.
Liquid fire burned in youthful Pittsburgh blood
Glowing white-hot in cankered mud
Cast into Nam’s furnace his leathered hide
To forge courage fighting sedition:
Boldly charging into the heart of rebellion
Quelling many a blood-stained Insurrection.
Honoring a Grandpa who died as a generation cried
Bravely on Dunkirk’s bloody shore
Alongside teeming thousand more
Starting a brave family tradition’s chore
Honoring fathers who died in World War I trenches
Gassed with the thirst that never quenches.
Now where deadly fear’s forever sear
He brings the hardness of Pittsburgh Steel here
To fight in a land that don’t mean nuthin’
Slogging through hellfire’s thick-and-thin
Beaucoup battles raging within
Fighting for what… salvation to win?
Harsh in gung-ho being he quivered
A huge red bed of coals inside him blazed
Seething with intense molten fury
His whole life’s purpose evil to bury
Dedication become obsession glowing in his eye
Ready in heart and mind to die…
Knowing not the question why?
The New York Playboy
The playboy from New York
That richly entitled dork
Oh the pretty girls he left behind
He talked about them all the time unkind
Keeping this most inconvenient war always in mind
That put playboy ways in a bind.
He laughed about the Sparkling-pale brew
That bubbly champagne dew
He once drank from a countess’s shoe
Flowing in blue-blood through-and-through
His shi., uh, er, defecation stew
Of course smelled better than yours do…
Now he drinks from his helmet
Shaves in his helmet
Washing off his sweat in a helmet
He didn’t much like marchin’
Nor reveille before sunset risin’
He cared not a whit for his sandbag kitchen.
The New York Playboy
Missed the diamond stud in his ear
Drinking blue ribbon beer
This highfalutin mess
Didn’t even know how himself to dress.
He hadn’t worked a single day in his life
Knowing naught of life’s toil and strife
But he didn’t die in battle the first day
Though some obscene to that end did pray
And he didn’t die the second day
Then the third and the fourth day went their way.
He learned to keep his head down low
With keening eye watched diligently for the foe
Looking up to the tree line for the vision profound
And at the same time down to the ground
Looking wherever death’s angel’s likely to be found.
He learned to trust in his brothers… like no others.
He learned a new humility
He learned of hectic life’s vulnerability
He gained a veteran’s stability
He had to… or die… he knew
For unyielding death can so very quickly undo
His pampered life eschew.
For here in the twinkling of an eye
He could unceremoniously die…
Cruel death favored no one…
Death could ruin all his fun.
Fate’s especially unkind under the son
To the fortunate high-born son.
He knew if he was to return across the pond
To as a veteran from the Nam abscond
He must become a good soldier
A bona fide Christian warrior
That was the only way to survive
The only way he could come out alive.
For in war his very frail life depended
On his being a good soldier who defended
Watching his brother’s backs, as they watched his.
He had to in combat brothers learn trust… He must
Or end up so much dust
Primordial blood-soaked rust.
The Surfer Dude Well Met
The Valley Boy At War
The surfer dude
The valley boy to “the man” rude
Who spent his life riding the waves
With Big King Kahuna faves’
Like, surfin’ out under the blue moon
Gag me with a spoon.
So, is the surf up in the Nam beyond
So, what… you want me, over the briny pond…
Whatever, dude… see you never…
Dude, this cruel war is grody to the max
Totally, this big daddy war, like man, it Jacks
Hoppin’ on “the man’s” regs…
Trippin’ with stiff starched patriot square pegs
Patriot stuffed shirts need’n a brand new bag
Yet they come lookin’ for my rag tag
I mean seriously, they’re totally clueless.
Totally rad in their innocence…
Don’t they know… they’re nowhere man?
‘Specially in Unc’ Sam’s Vietnam.
No way I want to go
Be-boppin’ in some other cat’s dojo
Rather stay where life’s totally tubular
Gone Nova super-spectacular
Don’t have nuthin’ against no hep-cat named Charlie…
So, y’know, eat drink and be gnarly
For tomorrow you die
Don’t need no pie in the sky makin’ me cry…
Totally rather ride down a breakin’ wave
Than put my life on the line my country to save
It’s my life, diversity of culture, man
Don’t need to go to no stinkin’ Vietnam
That’s ‘snaking’ the ‘burn’
Rather ‘duck dive’ then ‘paddle back to steal a turn.’
But here I am… the man what am…
A real life nephew of my Uncle Sam.
So if I’m goin’ to ‘pop up’ on the board
Surf back to the world to earn my reward
Leave the Nam in my sunset
Man, the total horrors forget
Gotta ‘pump’ up execution in this warrior’s gig
Man, like, get with the evolution, ‘you dig’
After all, I ain’t no socialite prig
Gotta, like, get with the program, like, a big wig…
I’d best ‘fade fast’ into this soldierin’ life
Geeze Louise, I don’t wanna lose my life
So ‘hang-five’ and pass the ammo
Jes’ don’t go makin’ me no John Wayne hero…
Cause iffen I’m gonna make
That on-the-beach clambake
Like, make the scene of a big ‘re-entry’
Gotta make it with, like, the combat gentry.
Don’t wanna test fate’s karmic Kismet
Cause tho I may be to war a ‘grommet’
Hand me ‘at steel pot crash helmet
‘Cause I don’t wanna be no zombie
How you say, a twink newbie
Don’t want no ‘wipe-out’
So gotta for my neck watch out
For Nam’s Tsunami wave my life to ‘close-out’.
Each platoon had a Doc
Medical corpsmen with skills to forestall doom
In a land where things tend to go boom
Doc was one of us
Watching over us
More than a brother
A Medic, our platoon’s father
Our friend, our Savior, responsible for us
Caring for us.
Oh, the horrors Doc’s seen
Tarnished in battle not sterile and clean.
He did the best he could
In Nam’s grim gnarly wood
To save lives
Floundering in Nam’s dinky dau dives
To patch up the holes a bullet leave
No time to mourn the forlorn grieve.
The Medic, got to render aid
Quick… before the last light’s fade
The spirit of Hippocrates bade
O’er a combat infantryman his brother kneeling
Saving with hands of healing
Heart beating desperate in his breast to prevent life’s ending
Bring him home safe to the world, or back to the war
Patch a brother up in one piece good as before.
Prep the man…
This child warrior fallen prey to Vietnam
Dress the gory wound antiseptic
Though daunting the task agonistic
Sustain life till handing off
Prep his brother to Medevac Dustoff
Always wondering, did he do enough…
Got to be tough.
Watch as a brother disappears o’er the tree tops
Watch till dusk drops
Pray the aid station docs do their magic
Doc’s spirit has to feel enormous pain tragic
But he’s got to pick himself up to do it again…
©Copyright September 2009 by Gary Jacobson
(Revised September 2010)
Author’s Note: I give tribute to Doc Bryant, who I’m sure by skilled first aid, and quick action, compassionately saved my life. You won one, Doc! Thanks! Thanks for being there when I needed you!