Gary Jacobson


Photograph by Larry Burrows
Photograph by Larry Burrows who was killed when the helicopter in which he was traveling was shot down over Laos in 1971
What shall we tell our children
Sitting sweetly innocent upon our knee
O’ times we went to bloody war
To fight for this land so brave and free
Spinning war’s lore, far o’er the briny blue sea we bore?

What shall we tell our children…
As their unripe generations inherit the sword I bore
As too soon their future, and my past, coalesce
As the children hear duty’s call to freedom restore
Sent forth to fight, perhaps to die, in feral wilderness.

What shall we tell our children…
How smiling we mighty men went to war gung-ho
How we stood proudly, so very straight and tall
Shirking not from duty, when we heard that bugle blow
Naively answering a patriot’s resonant clarion call?

What shall we tell our children…
War stories of great and fearless bravery
Our warrior’s mighty weapons honed strong and true
Of defending purest right with honored glory
Freedom’s won defending the red, white and blue?

What shall we tell our children…
How we were the best soldiers that’s ever been
Who offered might in duty, our very being’s all
Of painstaking training leading to super men
How we kicked the enemy’s ba…, uh, er, derriere.

What shall we tell our children…
Of our pride at being America’s best
Sent to that “police action,” communism to arrest
Sent by “friends and neighbors,” at our country’s behest
How we survived terrible battles of that refiner’s fire test?

Shall we tell our children legends…
Or shall we tell them the bloody truth?
Tell them of battles where justice their father defends
Of boyhood innocence lost, forsaken in its youth
Of far away lands where nations its young princes sends
Of death in the jungled wood that moral values rends.

What shall we tell our children
To replace revered tales of fame and glory…
Tales of pained anguish ending in lingering death?
Riding fire-breathing horses of steel to war’s destiny?
Steaming jungles nurtured by demonic stinking breath?

Shall we tell our children…
Tales of a fragrantly perfumed land so alien
Mud turned red with a boy-next-door’s blood
War’s horrible maiming of soldier brethren
Birthrights dying in savage tangled wood?

Shall we tell our children…
Tales of killing zones in jungles sweet and sour
Forever haunting memories of brothers of Vietnam
Fetid fear wall-to-wall, every blessed hour
Scars still burning deep in the soul of man.

Shall we tell our children…
Of men humping through a shadowed park
Of lonely names of the brotherhood on a lonely wall
Writing forever on beleaguered souls an indelible mark
Fallen brothers still standing in memory straight and tall?

Shall we tell our children…
Remembrances of the birthplace of our manhood
Twisting and turning boyhood ideals so violently
As the latest in a series of “war-to-end-all-wars” would
Destined to fight senseless battles in perpetuity.

Shall we tell our children… Our greatest hope for them
That we do not doom them…
Shackling them to similar fates suffered by their fathers
That they never walk our shadowed valleys dim
With embittered guns hunting, hating, killing evil others.

Shall we tell our children…
Old soldiers fervently pray…
Their children will not emulate them someday
Winning a place as another name on another wall
Dictating futures of wives and children all.

Shall we tell our children…
How bruised in body and spirit from fighting
That great and awful war
America we more than life were loving
Didn’t love us anymore…

Shall we teach our children…
Old warrior’s discovered values, love, peace, harmony
When looms at the door war’s bestial wolf
For if they do not learn cruel war’s history
Violent death too often repeats itself?

O yes, tell our children…
For how else are they to know
The truth embattled warriors learned first hand
Unless we who walked the valley of the shadow
Tell tales of combat in a barbarously evil land?

O yes, tell our children…
Of each dawning’s birthing in bitter memories gall
Friends and neighbors turning backs to those who fell
Boys like burned out leaves at summer’s end still fall
For war is… as it has always been… unmitigated hell!