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To The Vietnam Veterans I Know

To The Vietnam Veterans I Know

Peter thought he was John Wayne.

Said to the young prostitute

at the Saigon bar,

“I’m glad to be here

to help you. To save your country.”



Slowly she rose from the stool

her fine-boned hands clenched

at her sides. Her body rigid.

As her voice rose her anger dimmed

her red satin dress. “You are

killing my people. Go home! Go home!”



Jim’s base was overrun on a moon-free

night. The grunts hit the trenches.

For survival he covered himself

with the remains of his buddy’s body.

The shots still ring in his ears.



Michael made his first kill

at age 18. Then another. And

another. Back home it took

years to let go of the gun. Slender

yellow faces follow his dreams.



Don was a hawk. Couldn’t wait

to get over there and kill

some ‘slope-heads’. Twenty years

later he drinks himself into

oblivion to muffle the screams

of women and children

that thunder through his head.



The names have not been changed

to protect the innocent. Because

they were innocent. Innocent that

governments lie. Innocent that

guns kill. Innocent of gentle ways

to prove their manhood.


Gayle Lauradunn


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