Richard W. Reith

WE CAME TO NAM

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: February 16, 2006
Awarded: February 16, 2006
We came to Nam
From all corners of the world,
Filled with piss and vinegar,
Bravado and braggadocio.

We came to Nam
From farms and ghettos,
Cities and villages,
Different countries and cultures.
About to be bonded
In ways we couldn’t imagine.

We came to Nam
Young believers
Ready to beat the world.
They never told us
The world was ready for us.

With hormones oozing from every pore,
We wouldn’t have listened anyway.

We came to Nam
Teenagers and twenty-somethings,
Mature and immature,
Married and single-wild.
Giving up our precious youth,
To a cause they said was right,
Never understanding what we were giving up.

We endured.

Somehow,
we endured.

Through hours of boredom
And moments of terror
We endured.

We left Nam
Different than those who came.
Bonded forever
With people we never knew.
For we had all been to the mountaintop:
Different mountains,
Different heights,
Same view
Of Satan’s promised land.

We left Nam
To move into the future.
Some, with eyes facing forward
Hopeful, determined
Thankful for the gift of life.
Some moving forward
By walking backwards,
Eyes firmly focused
On those seminal events
That would forever define their lives.
For them, Nam won.

Author’s Note: This poem was written on Valentine’s Day, 2006 while sitting at the VA hospital waiting for my oncologist. Had been talking with a number of guys while waiting for blood to be take, and then again while waiting for triage. (Notice the word “waiting” seems to appear again and again?). The seeds of the poem came from those encounters.

Amazing how people you never knew, and may never meet again, are immediately friends simply because of that shared experience…