Gary Jacobson

TRIAL BY FIRE

The trial by fire begins
That never, ever, really ends.
For it evermore with nighttime shivers rends
To soldier boys who far from home did roam
Bringing mother liberty far over sea tossed foam
From dawn of morning to twilight’s gloam.

Just a FNG, wet behind the ears green as grass newbie
What a difference between now and then he’ll see
In his new uniform so cool
Yet to learn combat’s golden rule…
Get some
Before they get you, son.

My young son so bold; by tomorrow you’ll grow so very old
Dodging bullets, and doing what you’re told
But be careful, ‘cause there’s nobody both old and bold.
Listen well to veteran’s plotting out the course to hell
Their souls to hostiles to sell
Because they know the way so very, very well.

Go gallant young gods; perhaps to die; for precepts you adore
Young men gloriously gung-ho, sent pompously to war
What a sight, rookies wielding weapons with such firepower
Weapons designed to make the strongest Cong cower
Our nation’s best and brightest
Sent naïveté bristling to this Indo-China War fest.

Too soon the young boy prays to heaven for supernal luck
Too soon a veteran, up to his armpits in blood and muck
Too soon; he’ll never again smile
Nevermore the same boy who lived with us awhile
He who at his parents’ knee learned the love of life
Now making his way in the land of killing, tormenting strife.

War brings conflicted ideas of love, joy and peace
Restricting ideas amid jumbled values that never cease
Confused by contradictory forces, living sources of joy
Made uneasy by inconsistent impulses, your soldier boy
Taught painstakingly, “Thou shalt not kill,”
Then handed a gun and taught in the ways of the will to kill.

Give Charlie a taste of American sweet and sour
Pure love turned to hate irate in the stripling hour
Swayed to and fro with every wind of doctrine’s power
The sleight of man and the cunning craftiness
Whereby they lie in wait to deceive with glib assuredness
Our nation’s very elect with war’s beastliness.

With morality
Decimate very mortality
Watch as the cleansing fire of napalm
Wipes away past, present, our very future to embalm
Xin Loi, hope they were all Vietcong
Don’t much matter now anyway; so long!

What our soldier boys have become, no one can see
So far away in distant war off the South China Sea
Living life where very life is an assault
Whether on the enemies around us dealt
M-16s blazing on rock-and-roll
Raining death all-round in terrible toll
Smoke creeping insidiously in verdant valleys below.

Kiss your boys goodbye
Young princes gone to fight for that great lie
Just boys, these men intrepid
Waging this winner’s war with bravery lionhearted
GIs governed by politics discreet
Leave brave men behind, in this tragic deceit.