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Goodbye, Viet Nam

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  • Goodbye, Viet Nam

    I'm haunted by memories brought up from the past
    When I hear your name or remember the blast
    Of ammo exploding and the sky lit with flame
    How I wish I'd forget the sound of your name!
    It brings forth my tears and feelings of dread
    To listen to voices inside my head
    They say, What the hell am I doing here?
    I feel sadness, anxiety, rage, and fear.
    For so long I managed to push you away
    To a place in my mind so far from today.
    Yet sooner or later your head would rise up
    And stir my emotions and they would erupt.
    The tears come so freely to think that I
    Was not one of the 58,000 who died.
    My life was spared by the hand of God
    But others were not, and they died like dogs.
    They carried their bodies in zip lock bags
    To choppers and ships after they dragged
    Them through rice paddies, jungles and village streets
    To coffins lined up so straight and neat.
    These boys were just heeding their country's call
    To defend our freedom; to give their all.
    Little they knew when they departed
    To fight in a war they had not started.
    Good little soldiers were trained to kill
    In simulations of jungles and hills.
    They could not know that it was different this time,
    There was no way to tell there was no front line.
    The war was among us, on every side
    There was no safe haven, no place to hide.
    Was the kid over there a Viet Cong?
    Was I right or could I be wrong?
    Would he tie a grenade to my bunk that day
    So when I slept, it would blow me away?
    Would Mama-San rig up my jeep to explode
    A grenade in my gas tank ready to blow?
    The war was on all sides and made me feel
    Constantly vigilant even at meals.
    No one could be trusted, no one at all
    A misplaced trust could cause you to fall.
    The evening news would report the death toll
    Between ads for soap and Wesson Oil,
    Barely pausing before the vultures would pounce
    On the chance to update today's body count.
    One more number to add to the score;
    One more son not coming home any more.
    One more to feed to the war machine;
    One more who's face would go unseen.
    I did my part, but I still mourn
    For the ones who seem they were never born.
    Their lives snuffed out with little regard
    For their souls and their eternal reward.
    I thank my God for sparing me
    And for the effort it took for me to see
    That His hand was on me throughout the time
    I spent in that humid, tropical clime.
    Still my heart is tender and my feelings are raw
    To think I walked into the jaws
    Of ugly war which made no sense to us
    Nor to the ones who thought it unjust.
    They called us hawks and baby killers
    They spat on us and took their pills.
    They carried signs and protested involvement
    Like we were the ones who made the commitment
    We just followed orders like our fathers before us
    Who did it and then were brought home victorious.
    They showered them with ticker tape parades;
    We came home to ridicule and rage.
    Where's my parade, the flags unfurled;
    I was dropped like a rock back into the world
    With cars whizzing past and mindless chatter
    Was I really there, did I really matter?
    Can you understand my grief and my pain?
    The tears I shed, the hurt that remains?
    The dead, the dying, the innocence lost,
    Didn't you stop to count the cost?
    It's too late now to make amends
    To wipe the slate clean, to call me your friend.
    I hate you dreaded Viet Nam
    You stole a part of who I am.
    My tears are like medals, it's OK to cry,
    I'll drop a tear for every guy
    Who entered that land and did not return
    And for those who were damaged, whose feelings burn.
    Goodbye, Viet Nam, I won't give you the power
    By thinking of you every day, every hour.
    I'll choose to honor the memories instead
    Of my fellow soldiers, living and dead.

    Terry Rushbrook
    ©May 1999
    1LT, Army Signal Corps,
    RVN: 1968-1969
    Cam Rahn Bay, Qui Nhon, Da Lat