From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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We Did What We Could (poem)

By R. G. Cantalupo

We fired on the trees
because their shadows
looked like men.

We torched the hootches
because we saw rifles
entering or leaving

doorways in the dark.
We strung wire around
a rice paddy and called it

ours for a day. We did
what we could, what we
were ordered to do. We

didn't like it. We didn't
think it was right or good.
But we did it—what else

was there to do? Some
stayed in the valley, some
on the mountain with no

name, some in the Ho Bo
Woods, some along Ho Chi
Mein's trail. Some died
later of internal wounds. And
some are still out there on a
street some where. Each of

us left something we loved
behind—a girl, a friend, a
promise, a luckless Saint

Christopher, a purpled heart.
We did what we could, what
was asked of us. It wasn't

enough. Not for us. Not for our
time. Not enough to keep the
dead from rising with their

fists full of weeds, nor enough
to stop the living from cradling
them in their nights of terror.

—r. g. cantalupo

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