Gary Jacobson

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THE NAM

James’s day started out with a stillness…
Combat patrol into the hot, sticky, pungent quietness
Cold chill stroking volatile air with a vengeance.
Rivulets of sweat smudged camouflage down our necks
Looking cautiously at all the usual suspects
As we glide solemnly into forests shadowed pool
No noise came from chattering monkeys in jungles cruel
Those monkeys… overseers of men’s war-games
Biding careful not to get caught in resulting flames.

James saw the way the Vietnamese looked at us
Eyes hard, emotionless, expressionless…
Watching us stealthily move through parched grass
Their transfixed, hardened eyes impaled us
Stares followed us, glaring long as endless day torturing us
Slogging our way through their rice paddies lush
Silent as we spread out on both sides of the ravine
Warming sun beating down like a soft summer’s dream.

At the end of the world all hell broke loose
Three hundred fifty North Vietcong popped the noose
Surrounding our twenty-two man platoon rag-tag
So we dug in… burrowed in… all sound gag.
James carried a prick 25 radio on his back
Called in air strikes the area to rack
Around us… among us… rain down upon us
Taste hell-fires damnation on top of us.

Hide in the ground, burrow, cover up with the leaves
Bury yourselves mid grassy sheathes
Blinking at the hot sun’s fireball, Vietnamese walking around
Like to kill us dead if our sad sacks they found
So dare not move a muscle, make not a sound
With the evening came again dreaded silence
Nothing breathed in still thoughts accursedness
Disappear like ghosts in all our badness.

Hold your breath, still as death, as VC pass over
Death within a whisker
Spurring tremulous breathing dangerously brisker
Making the whole world suddenly seem blacker
Walking over brothers, again and again…
Spurring cringing dread within
Making silent men silently cry
Today is a good day to die.

Morning dawn broke with VC yelling
Drumming upon us in the ravine their frustrated shelling
Hoping to find some ghosts mid demolition telling.
Yet despite thunderous noise we held our position
Chafed souls waiting for the right time for action
Till rising as ghosts, legions popping right out of hell
North VC didn’t know we were still there, so well dug in
Till we were there, right in the middle of the north VC den.

James knew he didn’t do something soon, we’d soon be done
VC swarming mad as hornets around positions over-run
Making over us a terrible hissy fuss
So called in a “broken arrow,” for artillery to rain down on us.
Called in air strikes out of Bien Hoa
Watched as out of the clouds swept down the deadly cobra
Shelling us all with a bloody booby prize…
North Vietcong thinking we’d snuck out, we caught by surprise.

American condemnations came down on an enemy almighty,
Lashing napalm and bringing reinforcements aplenty.
Cobras unloaded scathing cargo of rockets and M-60
Blistered the perimeter with hail, fire and fury.
We chopped down trees to clear an LZ
To get supplies in, and us out, you see.
Dropping bombs scourging, slashed rockets everywhere
No time even for prayer…

Oh still small voice, hear now our crying
Enemies abound all round, preoccupied with our dying
Resolved to reunite us with dust from whence we came.
Hear us now, Oh Ye Holy of Name
Protect us, give us bravery in this affrighted hour
Protect us that we will not in death like craven cowards cower.
Infuse us with strength to over our enemies in righteousness tower
Purify us this day to enter Thy Celestial bower.

James foxhole buddy, James Lovern, took a direct hit
Midst all the flying shrapnel and sh…
uh, er, shelling debris…
James tried to help his brother from Tennessee
The medevac chopper moving in upon the melee
Then he too felt a numbing feeling as he went down
Blackness fell as he hit the ground
Dark… cobwebs… head spinning round

James woke, feeling forlornly lost
Wrestling with very air, mind and body tempest tossed
Egregiously bruised and sore, heavily oppressed
Struggling out of consciousness, distressed
Through tangling spider webs into Yakota, Japan
Gone far and away from accursed Vietnam…
Though both legs were lost, the cost in “the Nam’s” to-do.
His friend was pulled on the chopper too

Shot in the neck
James weary wounds his very soul bedeck
Like to his whole life wreck.
But James kept strong his shadowed faith
Despite Nam’s ghostly portent wraith…
Doctors gave a 50-50 chance of his parade continuing
Getting on with this sojourn through life we call living
Pursuing smashed dreams back in “the world,” ever aspiring.

But it could have been worse… the devil his due give
Only two men made it out of that hell-hole alive
From fighting in a war filled with hate
James learned not to hate.
Vietnam made James a better person
Prompting in his life an age of reason
That no matter where it is fought, war is wrong
Naught but evil, death and destruction in its sweet and sour song.

Today, James lives in a wheelchair in a life day-by-day
In Ann Arbor, Mich., the Hyat VA
Remembering forever that bloody awful fray
Of a far off yesterday, that made his today
Though he’s now half of what he thought he would be
And less… finding it hard to see the victory
Yet twice what he was, having some use of body, not much
Saved to help other vets heal with his been there/done that touch.