I looked at him, straight in the eye
and said “Okay, Son, I’ll give it a try.
I’ll answer your question, if you’ll take the time
to answer just a few questions of mine.”
Have you ever had to pick up a gun?
Learn to fight while on the run?
Learn to kill and learn to hide
and learn to keep the fears inside?
Have you ever had to shoot someone
and not think twice about what you’d done,
or crawl through the swamps and the Elephant grass
and wonder how long it takes a year to pass?
Did you ever want to just go Home?
Have you ever been scared when the sun goes down,
lay in ambush , tight to the ground,
cringe with fear at the slightest sound
hugging the dirt so you won’t be found?
Have you ever crossed a paddy, deep in slime
where every step can trigger a mine?
Have you ever put your foot on a dead man’s chest
just to make sure there was no breath left?
Did you ever want to just get out?
Can you glide through the Jungle like a deadly snake
and weave your way through the punji stakes?
Can you probe your way through a live mine field
where one mistake means your fate is sealed?
Can you walk twenty miles in the burning heat
then spend the night without any sleep?
Can you live in the rain for a month or more
with the clouds for a roof and mud for a floor?
Did you ever just want to call it quits?
If you can answer “yes” to the questions posed
then you are one of the ones that know.
There is no answer to “What was it like?”
It’s trying to see when there is no light.
So, if you still want to know what it was really like,
you’ll have to get a gun and get into the fight.
You can’t describe what has to be felt.
No need to make sense of the hand you were dealt.
The secrets of the heart I can’t explain,
just know that every day there’s a touch of pain.
The young man turned and looked at me,
a tear rolled down his cheek.
I could see the quiver on his lips
I could see his knees go weak.
He said to me : “I didn’t know,
I never should have asked.”
He gently brushed the tear aside
and let another moment pass.
He then reached out and shook my hand
and said “ Thank you from us all.”
I held his grip and whispered back
“Thank those up on the Wall”
He gave a nod and walked away
Hesitating in his pace.
He turned back once to wave goodbye
To a distant time and place.
Author: Geoffrey Muther, 5th Infantry, Quang Tri, Vietnam 69-79, email@example.com
Geoff Muther, a resident of Isles of Capri, was a Sergeant E6 and served as a demolitions squad leader along the DMZ (Boarder between North & South Vietnam) during 1969-1970. At a moving ceremony on Boston Common taps were played over 20,000 American Flags representing MA veterans that made the ultimate sacrifice from World War I to the current conflict. Photo by photographer Jim Raycroft, who is also a Vietnam Vet.