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?