There was a first day

he battled the angry heat,

a stench so foul

it gagged him,

blood running down his arms

where mosquitoes struck,

a need for something cold

against his throat

so desperate

he might have killed

for ice.


There was the day

of his first firefight,

his first Tet and first kill,

his first buddy to die,

roiling stools and spongy feet,

the first time he slapped

a mama-san to the mud

with his rifle butt

and begged her to give him cause.


There was the day

his camouflaged fatigues

hung easy on his ankles,

his feet grew boots,

his helmet joined his head,

when C rations tasted fine,

the green towel around his neck

friendly as a muffler,

when he woke in the jungle morning

ready and eager.


There was the day

his orders came

to return to the World,

when he crouched by the road

waiting for the convoy to pass,

one hand around the barrel

of an M-16,

the other squeezing his dog tags,

when he turned cold

and couldn’t stop shaking,

when he decided

his only choice

was to stay.



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