James H. Smith


They walk in, men old, middle age, men no longer young
Why have they come alone, is there not a wife or child to hold their hand, to share their life?
Is there no acceptance; is there no caring within their home?
Or is it their own fear, is it they, who push away acceptance and love?
For if I love someone
I do not want them to see, or to feel the pain, we hold inside
Inward looking, I do not except what I have done, nor what I once became
So how can I open myself to anyone, but those not born, but who have been made as I
Eyes that speak, too much, too young, have we seen
We were old much before our time, while our bodies stayed young
Death? O yes, we have seen death
All we wanted was to look while this face was young, we wanted to see life, bright and shining life
Most sit alone, feeling afraid for who I became? I am? I was? All perhaps?
No, it’s for what I once became, what I once was or am?
So we remain, afraid to feel? to love? to touch, or be touched by another
Vietnam Veterans of war: they have come this day to honor their own, their brothers, their sisters
Those that are with us and those that have now walked beyond
Veterans Day, remembrance for country for freedom
Remembrance for what we have seen and what we have done
Remembrance in each, in war there is only the tired, the dirt, the blood, the death
Each holds their sadness inside and passes to the young a prayer, NO WAR! NO WAR! NO WAR!
Oh! By the way God, I know we’ve talked many times in a fox hole, so hear me once more if you will
Please, let there be no young Veteran of war, to fill my shoes, after I’m gone.

Steve Mason (1940-2005)
Steve Mason (1940-2005)
IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: August 9, 2007
Awarded: August 9, 2007

Author’s Note: Several years ago I went to a poetry reading by Steve Mason, poet laureate of the Vietnam Veterans of America at the time. He lived about three miles down the road from me and often did a reading on Veterans Day. As I watched the Veterans come into the church where the reading was held, this poem formed in my head and I wrote it down when I got home. Most of the Vietnam Vets came alone; it seemed they were almost afraid to be there, a deer in the headlight look in their eyes.

Thought I would share my thoughts. It seems there are so many of us still hiding inside ourselves. But this one night they came to be with brothers who understood.

Some who were there that night are now gone, including Steve Mason who died at age 65 on March 25th, 2005 in Ashland, OR of lung cancer from Agent Orange exposure.

James H. Smith
August 9, 2007