Homage to Viet Vets (poem)
By Jay Wenk
12,000 seasons the Globe has cast off
since Homer's chanting revealed
Achilles and Odysseus' proud boasts at Ilium.
Actual combat was left to others.
Not that long a time ago,
Whitman and Melville, Whittier and Dickinson
composed their stanzas, carrying to our hearts
the horrors of the North and of the South.
They were civilians.
In Flanders Fields, poet warriors tell of Hell,
on muddy pages in freezing trenches.
Officers all, not of the ranks.
Enlisted men's precinct, a Christmas Truce in
no-man's land, wrapped in laughter,
shared cigarettes, and a sort of soccer game.
Worldwide war-making movers and shakers succeed.
Carrying many wounds, many pages,
GI authors returned from the four corners,
disillusioned, angry, not yet widely dissenting,
........ during decades of war, in a world in a jungle
between two vast oceans, citizens of
Vietnam humbled invaders from the Old World and the New.
Lives against fearsome machines, tinted poisons,
provided comprehension for conscripts sent
to humiliate and destroy.
Those that escaped body bags
rejected diabolical freedom to
participate in massacres.
Feeling the strength of personal pulsing humanity,
abandoning their mandate defiantly despite
outraged howling from home,
soldiers at last refusing
the role of murderous brigands
they were beguiled into,
trained and commanded to.
We veterans of earlier wars, our secret ghosts
rustling in the background,
tainted as we had been by
that monster of Deceit,
admire wintry declarations of honor,
understand power's denunciation
returned military decorations bestow.
Veterans of Vietnam,
for all time you give the lie to
Pro Patria Mori.*
* ancient Latin, "to die for one's country."