Anthony W. Pahl

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: August 31, 2004
Awarded: August 31, 2004

Too un-brave, too uncertain, too un-alive, too un-young! Yes, these feelings, and more, served to instil the desire to once again leave my wife and daughter behind to return to where life was real and felt and experienced and savoured because death was real and felt and experienced and savoured. To return to Vietnam!

Vietnam – the place where no thought of the future was necessary or desired; where the adrenal rush of living, and dying, and killing, and saving, and laughing, and crying, was gravy that required no other seasoning or spices!

Vietnam – where yesterday, today and tomorrow were equal; where friends were those instruments that spewed letters and words and sentences of death; where warmth and comfort were provided by the contents of link-belts and magazines.

Vietnam – where amazement was the realization that a human seen from ground level was the same as a human seen from 200 feet up; where a momentary splash of shadowed red glimpsed from the left seat through the sights of twin M60s in a chopper really was the chop, the signature, of death.

Vietnam – where the acrid odour of helicopter fuel was barely discernable over the odour of fear-induced sweat and urine and faeces – or the stench of blood and screams and cordite; where the number of rounds fired was more tangible than the number of heartbeats they cut short; where the look of fear in almond shaped eyes gave a feeling of satisfaction until that look turned, in an instant of truth, to hatred – then resignation – then nothing.

Vietnam – where dreams and expectations about returning to the world far exceeded the reality; where black and yellow and white and red were the colours that identified drums of terrible chemical cocktails, not the colour of skin; where a smile was more likely to be a grimace than a reaction to a joke or a friendly greeting.

Vietnam – where a lifetime of values learned were forgotten – or lost; where children became ancient; where cowboys with cap guns became killers; where innocence matured to monstrous callousness.

Vietnam – the black hole of eternity whence those who did return, did so with the light of life extinguished from their eyes!

Vietnam – the year that is my life!