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The following poem was recently discovered among the personal effects of a Vietnam soldier's mother. Both the soldier and his mother are deceased now. The poem was published in a local newspaper on July 11, 1967.

Assignment: America
'Twixt Raids and Slugs, GI Composes a Poem
By Phyllis Battelle
New York--Between air raids and sniper's bullets, a soldier in Vietnam composed a poem. He sent it to Bob Hope, a man whom he knew would be sympathetic. Hope "choked up" when he read it, and handed it to me. He said I could print it if I liked--"but then, it might be too depressing." he added, looking at it and shaking his head. "Think about it." I thought, and decided he was right: Too depressing.
Then, today, I read a mean little story in the papers about a sit-in by protestors to protect the right to protest, and--well, here's the verse:

"Take a man, then put him alone,
Put him 12,000 miles from home.
Empty his heart of all but blood.
Make him live in sweat and mud.
This is the life I have to live,
And why my soul to the devil I give.

You 'peace boys' rant from your easy chair
But you don't know what it's like 'over there'
You have a ball without near trying,
While over here your boys are dying.
You burn your draft cards, march at dawn,
Plant your signs on the White House lawn.

You all want to ban the bomb:
'There's no real war,' you say, 'in Vietnam."
Use your drugs, and have your fun,
And then refuse to lift a gun.
There's nothing else for you to do...
And I'm supposed to die for you?

I'll hate you till the day I die.
You made me hear my buddy cry.
I saw his arm, a bloody shred,
I heard them say, 'This one's dead.'
It's quite a price he had to pay--
Not to live another day.

He had the guts to fight and die;
He paid the price, but what'd he buy?
He bought YOUR life by losing his,
But who gives a damn what a soldier gives?
His wife does and, maybe his sons,
But they're about the only ones."

A1-C James F. Poarch, Vietnam

We live in an age of awesome cynicisms. It is up to the individual consience to decide which cynicisms are defensible and which are destructive.


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