The Gift

Written by Ron Nash

Pilot identifies smoke, verifies coordinates as they roar by

Alone in loneliness, his mind travels back, again 

Candle’s flicker-dance in the semi-darkness of the room

Life in shadows on walls…horror-stricken from it all.

A boy, eighteen, a hostile jungle in a foreign land

The camouflaged warrior, that killer is now a man.

Whoop, whoop, whoop gunships pound the air, drop in low

Mini-guns ablaze, fire rockets, killing more NVA as they go.

Still outnumbered thirty to one, NVA plans to overrun

Small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades hit the mark

wounded-dying call for mother, medic, lost in the fight

Suppressive fire their only chance to save the Team

Ra-tat-tat bullets whiz by, pierced flesh, more cries, medic!

RPG, death rains from the sky, shrapnel tears deep within

Gushing blood must be stopped; he needs morphine fast  

Stay the course, drift in and out, never die, keep up the fight

Silver-winged angels from on high fly, Air Force F-4 Phantoms

Like eagles, they fly low, dropping canisters as they go, Napalm!

Ear-spitting sounds, destruction, burned-burning dying all around

Fires ablaze, smell the Napalm, taste the death, forever it will remain

Medivacked, boys wounded, dying, no memories, living in a fog

Pinned with medals, Purple Heart, Valor, he recovers fast

So surreal, to the jungle he goes, but with Uncle Ho, the war lasts

Monsoons, mosquitos, malaria, more blood and guts, and battles

Pushing through the jungle, slaughtered like cattle, for what?

Freedom Bird flies high to take him back to the World, his home.

Parents joy, now dismay, who is this man, what is wrong, leave us

Mother says, “I don’t know you! You’re not my son; fighting tears, he goes

Alone again, at just nineteen, the bars become his friend, the drinks flow

A death wish come one, come all; he’s primed and ready to fight them all.

Years pass, so do women and jobs until he meets her, the right one at last

She helps him and takes him to the VA Hospital; he’s diagnosed: PTSD

Years of therapy begin, continual flashbacks and nightmares never end

A new diagnosis, bipolar disorder, for him one more gift from Vietnam

Many more hospital trips, shackled, four-points, strapped to a bed

Age forty, another surprise gift arrives, Type II diabetes, Agent Orange

A new diet must begin, but he likes his beer, ice cream, and cake

He does not heed the warnings until the needle becomes his fate

The warrior’s strong body gave way to the roly-poly man at the gate

He worked his body hard, got off the insulin, and life became great.

As more years passed, his nightmares and flashbacks did not subside

The therapist, who had never known war, said, “look on the bright side

although disabled, battle scared, PTSD, and diabetes, you’re still alive.”

He wondered if that were true for brothers killed; the war ended too soon

A song, an odor, fireworks, he’s back in the jungle, and his war starts over.

Year’s mount, grey upon the beard, and he begins to walk a little slower

Blood work and a trip to the VA brings a new special delivery from Vietnam

Agent Orange returns, his prostate, and more must go, a lifesaving surgery.

To a nurse, the surgeon says, “his loss is not good news, but at least he’s alive.”

With his eyes closed, he thinks of making love and wonders as he cries.

After recovery, she wants him to end the isolation of all those many years

A psychiatrist and a friend, Dr. Rob, suggests he join a group, men with PTSD

Sharing, caring for one another, good times and bad, a move forward

And two steps back when the Facilitator left, and the group came to an end

Dr. Rob called on him to become State Certified and volunteer to lead again.

Things were going well; he took the position, and years of isolation came to an end.

Another new gift from Vietnam arrived, bladder cancer, Agent Orange once more

More surgery, infusions into the bladder, more bloodwork, finally, remission

Giving all to the veterans he serves, teaching therapeutic writing to the survivors

Veterans’ Voices, an outlet, a means of publishing heartfelt stories for many.

Grateful for all things, good and bad, that have happened in his life

At 71 years of age, he knows God was there by his side in that horrid jungle

And now another gift from Vietnam long since passed, Agent Orange, again

Parkinson’s disease, no smell, no taste, a failing gait, and tremors abound

Keep going, serving our Nation’s Veterans, and he knows God is still around

Twilight, again in his room, candles flicker-dance shadows on walls

He wonders. What’s next, Agent Orange?

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