|Landing Zone Grand Rapids, July 3, 2010
By Jill M.
from the sheltering shade
of a sycamore
the soldiers down below
their name and company
upon the map
the sound of bagpipes
carried on the hot summer breeze
as if Braveheart and his warriors
were advancing o're the hills
spiny balls like weapons
hung from the mottled tree
over my head
which I could identify
as sycamore and not Sweet Gum
as first I'd thought
but I realized
I couldn't identify
the town or village upon that map
where my friend Bob Cody had served
and he was gone
dead from Agent Orange
and the cancer it spawned
for years we'd played poker weekly
Cody, a verbose New Yorker
certainly wasn't reticent
hesitant to talk about Vietnam
like so many other returning
vets seemed to be
so I must have heard
where he'd been stationed
but sitting there outside the stadium
waiting for the gates to open for LZ Michigan
Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans
I couldn't remember and a wave of loss
and regret swept over me because
it was gone
he was gone
so much was gone
The girls at Burgett Floral would call and say
I'll send my driver over.
I didn't know his name.
We were friendly but brief.
He once asked me to save the large sheets
of plastic the Dutch flower boxes were lined with
as they were handy to wrap large arrangements when it got cold.
I did save them and he was happy to get them but I never
knew his name although he called me by mine
which he did while I was looking for my husband
in the smoking section at the LZ MI Welcome Home
Vietnam Veterans, surprising me.
I didn't know he was a Vietnam Vet
a decorated Marine, a mechanic
of supply transport out of De Nang
who'd stopped the loss of vehicles to the black market
by standing up and firm to a sergeant
because that was his job
that was his responsibility, that twenty-one year old soldier
who had so much respect and loyalty for the men he served with.
Another Vet there in the smoking section of the stadium
in Grand Rapids overheard and said You were in the Marine 1st Division?
I was in the 3rd and they got to talking too.
The driver's name is Jim Van Dyk
and I'm honored to have heard his story
privileged to be his acquaintance
thankful for his service.
'I want to go home'
By Mike Mitchell
I want to go home, I cry in my sleep,
To the serenity of love
To a peace I can keep.
Fighting for the people, whom we
Tried to keep free, but the stages
Of war made a prisoner of me.
Not one who is caged behind
Bars in a cell, but a captive of the
Mind that prays to get well.
My Brothers are many, and yet
I'm alone. My heart is weeping
I want to go home.
The direction is foggy, but my visions
Are clear, I struggle with anger, frustration
And fear. The values have left me, that
I learned as a child, and replaced with
A rage that runs rampant and wild.
My journey's not one of a car or
A train, but one that is made of
Memories and pain.
But my Brothers have told me that
I'm not alone, you can win this war,
And finally go home.
By Merrill G.
Remember the day I borrowed your brand
new car and dented it?
I thought you'd kill me, but you didn't.
And remember the time I dragged you to the beach,
and you said it would rain, and it did?
I thought you'd say, "I told you so." But you didn't.
Do you remember the time I flirted with all
the guys to make you jealous, and you were?
I thought you'd leave, but you didn't.
Do you remember the time I spilled strawberry pie
all over your car rug?
I thought you'd hit me, but you didn't.
And remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance
was formal and you showed up in jeans?
I thought you'd drop me, but you didn't.
Yes, there were lots of things you didn't do.
But you put up with me, and loved me, and protected me.
There were lots of things I wanted to make up to you
when you returned from Vietnam.
But you didn't.
When the Lord was creating Vietnam veterans, He was into
His 6th day of overtime when an angel appeared. "You're
certainly doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."
And God said, "Have you seen the specs on this order?
A Nam vet has to be able to run 5 miles through the bush
with a full pack on, endure with barely any sleep for days,
enter tunnels his higher ups wouldn't consider doing, and
keep his weapons clean and operable.
He has to be able to sit in his hole all night during an attack,
hold his buddies as they die, walk point in unfamiliar territory
known to be VC infested, and somehow keep his senses
alert for danger.
He has to be in top physical condition existing on c-rats and
very little rest. And he has to have 6 pairs of hands." The
angel shook his head slowly and said, "6 pair of hands....no
The Lord say's "It's not the hands that are causing me
problems.... It's the 3 pair of eyes a Nam vet has to have."
"That's on the standard model?" asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. "One pair that sees through elephant
grass, another pair here in the side of his head for his
buddies, another pair here in front that can look reassuringly
at his bleeding, fellow soldier and say, "You'll make
it".......when he knows he won't.
"Lord, rest, and work on this tomorrow."
"I can't," said the Lord. "I already have a model that can
carry a wounded soldier 1,000 yards during a firefight, calm
the fears of the latest FNG, and feed a family of 4 on a
The angel walked around the model and said, "Can it think?"
"You bet," said the Lord. "It can quote much of the UCMJ,
recite all his general orders, and engage in a search and
destroy mission in less time than it takes for his fellow
Americans back home to discuss the morality of the War,
and still keep his sense of humor."
"This Nam vet also has phenomenal personal control. He can
deal with ambushes from hell, comfort a fallen soldier's
family, and then read in his hometown paper how Nam vets
are baby killers, psychos, addicts, killers of innocent
The Lord gazed into the future and said, "He will also endure
being vilified and spit on when he returns home, rejected and
crucified by the very ones he fought for."
Finally, the angel slowly ran his finger across the vet's cheek,
and said, "There's a leak...I told you that you were trying to
put too much into this model." "That's not a leak", said the
Lord. "That's a tear." "What's the tear for?" asked the angel.
"It's for bottled up emotions, for holding fallen soldiers as
they die, for commitment to that funny piece of cloth called
the American flag, for the terror of living with PTSD for
decades after the war, alone with it's demons with no one to
care or help."
"You're a genius," said the angel, casting a gaze at the tear.
The lord looked very somber, as if seeing down eternity's
"I didn't put it there," he said.
(pause for reflection)........God bless Nam vets