Poetry and Reflections

This page contains poetry written by Barb and reflections by Doc G, and there will be stuff from some other people as this section grows.

Barb's Poetry

Khe Sanh April

It began today as it does each year

that thunk of the mortar in my soul

calls me to this vigil

the mortar knows the time

not I

and faithful to its purpose clear

it signals me the hour is near

the countdown has begun

deep in myself, I turn from all

that is without, I walk and speak

but am not present here

I move suspended now

far off

responsive only to that call

the silent passage of its fall

a round the wind has won

my body now a hollow space

full of the thunder of my heart

sweep hand seconds measure

out the next few days

and I

see ahead the target in place

see the look on his lover's face

and it's thirteen seconds before 1:00

(Thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten...


I try to warn, oh god, please run

he cannot hear but turns his head

as if he searches for some tug

at his attention

and he

takes off the helmet....

(Four, three, two...)

From the sun

the mortar falls,

my heart beats one

and then the thing is over.


(©April 1995 Barb)


The following poem was written as a compilation of the memories of some members of the 1st Battalion 9th Marines who have done me the honor of telling me how it really was. --  Barb


Our eyes have seen the glory of the dropping of the bombs
B-52s and napalm on the hills around Khe Sanh
We hid ourselves in bunkers >til the planes had done their thing
But the siege, it just went on.

The lights of Khe Sanh village do not twinkle in the night
It=s been cold and still down there since we got in this fight
We wonder if those families made it out all right
While the siege continues on.

The ammo dump exploded and the frag, it fell like rain
The fire burned high and in the wind it smoked and stank for days
The NVA, they had the range, and blew it up again
And still the siege went on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah
Charlie sure will try to fool ya
He=ll dig his goddamn trenches right up to our wire
While we have to hold our fire.

They tried to send us water and they tried to send us food
They dropped it in the wasteland which did nothing for our mood
This was just such chickenshit  to us trapped on the ground
So we snipered rats and learned to cook 'em down.

We couldn=t get our mail out, and some girls, they would not wait
ADear John@, they wrote us back and said, Ayour letter came too late.
AI met another guy -- he calls me every day, it=s great@
And the siege, it just crawled on.

Charlie sappers charged the wire, we shot >em down by tens
We turned our backs to take a leak, and they came on again
We dragged their dead inside the wire: AYou wanted to be here?
ASo here you are, y= fucken ass, we=ll pour y=all a beer!@

Glory, glory, hallelujah
An arty round will go right through ya
And you will see the light as you=ve never done before
Through that big millimeter bore.

Our underwear, it rotted, and we couldn=t get no more
We did the Khe Sanh shuffle to a mortar back-beat score
We slept down in the trenches where the rats would chew our boots
And the siege, it just went on.

They couldn=t let us lose it and they wouldn=t let us win
To see your buddies die for that, just drives the anger in
We packed our dead in body bags and stacked them near the strip
While the siege, it just groaned on.


When the day of Armageddon dawns, and God, He needs a hand
To defeat old Satan=s minions and defend the Promised Land
We hope The Man will call on us who know the face of War
And let us even up the score.

Glory, glory, hallelujah
Here=s from all the bro=s who knew ya
From Hill 881 to the road we called Route 9
When the siege was going on.

(©1996, Barb)



Every year about this time,
I find it hard to sleep.
I walk and pace the floors at night,
My thoughts are sad and deep.

I think of times in a far off land,
When they and I were young,
And Christmas came to foxholes
With no carols being sung.

Cookies, Kool-Aid, sox and cards
In boxes all were sent
To young guys and young women too
Who lived in trenches and in tents.

I've heard that some had Christmas trees,
But that many more had not...
How hard to be so young out there
With Christmas just a thought.

How hard to be so young out there
Where peace was just a dream
Where the night was broken not by choirs,
But by a soldier's scream.

Where the wise men did not venture out
Where no one herded sheep
And your light had better be well hid
Beneath a bushel deep.

Where the only ass that mattered
Was your buddies' and your own
And the only stars that twinkled
Were your tears, so far from home.

And so...this time of year I find
It's hard to feel the joy
It's hard to shop among the crowds
For perfume and for toys.

Because my thoughts go out to yesteryear
When the days were not holy and calm
But bright with arc-lights, and flushed with fear
In a war called Vietnam.

Oh...light a candle for the lost
Upon the midnight clear
For it's coming up on Tet again,
The dawn of a new year.




Reflections of Doc G

Doc G, HM2 Hospital Corpsman, served with the 1st Battalion 9th Marines, RVN September 1967 - November 1968.  His tour of duty included Con Thien, Camp Carroll, Rock Pile, Ashau Valley, Khe Sanh, and various other scenic spots in Northern I Corps.  Doc today is a husband, father, Presbyterian minister, valuable member of his County Rescue Squad, and Chaplain to the County Police Force. 

Why I Am Who I Am

You may wonder why I'm so different
Why I have so many unusual ways
But feel not alone, for I wonder too
But in answer, this is all I can say...

My life before Nam was quite normal
Not a prep course for what I'd encounter
And in your wildest dreams you'd never imagine
How intense just living in Nam could be,

Well, here is part of the story of Life in the Nam
Of how I was changed into what I am

Over there, you didn't see a tree in a forest,
You saw an ambush behind every leaf.
There were no fields of grass to romp in,
Just another place for booby traps and pits.

There were spiders and snakes, elephants, tigers, insects...
None of which seemed to care much for me.
And of course there were people of a different culture,
Who wanted me to die more than they cared for their own life.

So listen to this story...and find out who I am
I'm a man changed by the misery of Vietnam.

I have walked through a river of blood
While death tugged at my shirttail.
I have slept with the corpse of a friend
Who hours before was my bosom buddy.
I have lived in the stench of feces and urine
While rats scampered across my feet.
I have held men too young to shave in my arms
While they gasped their very last breath.
I have cried at the loss of a comrade
And I wondered why it was him and not me.
I have eaten food with blood caked on my hands
While I sat among the wounded and the dead.
I have endured great hunger for food
While my lips were parched with thirst.
I have lived in a hole in the ground with vermin
While my brains seemed to cook in the sun.
I have invaded a land that was not my own
And I hated a people I didn't even know.
I have had muscles ache from extreme fatigue
While my eyes bore witness to the extreme horror.
I have run unafraid through artillery and bullets
While wondering if the next round would get me.
I have grown faint from fear
While my mind entombed the living nightmares.
I have witness pain of intolerable degree
While I held the pieces of destroyed tissue in my hands.

I was obligated to play God, and I did it
As I decided who was to live and who must die.
I have fired at the enemy with a vengeance
And I have promised to kill a friend out of mercy.

I have done these things...

For you, it is a spring rain
For me it is a memory of haunting death.
For you it is a walkway through a pleasant wood area,
For me it is a one-way path to devastation.
For you it is a restaurant with wonderful atmosphere,
For me it is an invitation to mortar attack.

Yes, it is true I have changed.
I'm not who I was and never will be again.
So as you wonder why I am the way I am
Or why I do as I often do,
Please remember...
Sometimes I don't know why either.

( © Doc G)


Combat Fatigue

For thousands of years, men have entered into the combat quest,
Where their skills and determination are put to the ultimate test.
To the victor goes the spoils, and to the loser the disheartened shame.
But it's devastating to all who enter and play this godforsaken game.

'Tis not a game where points or scores you attempt to mount,
'Tis a game where losses are tallied by a dead-body count.
Men from both sides do die, they become memories of the mind,
For those who do survive, those memories are especially unkind.

For me it was a land called Vietnam, I was young and very naive,
With no accord of combat, youthful innocence soon took it's leave.
I was introduced to what we call combat, survival of the fittest,
There was violence, mayhem, and terror of these was the greatest.

For each who went and did serve there, regardless of race, rank or age,
You were asked to live and to perpetuate this maddening state of rage.
There was a continual smell of anger, of fear, that permeated the air,
All things were in the extreme, no such thing as moderation or fair.

I have heard it said that Vietnam was unique, a different kind of war,
Unpopular on the homefront, its veterans considered evil to the core.
The truth is we are not different, we're not out of humanity's grasp,
It's just that our future vision is often dimmed by our dismal past.

'Twas you who sent us to that land, to a people who didn't want us to be,
You asked us to liberate hostile people who really didn't want to be free.
You gave to us our objectives, then you tied our hands behind our back,
While many combat essentials were absent, our fortitude never did lack.

We had a self-appointed master, who said kill, count, and kill even more,
Soon the only objective clearly seen was the bodies, the blood, and the gore.
It was combat without cause, it became do your time and get the hell out,
In a plane or a bodybag -- no matter, that's what Vietnam was all about.

When a nation allows a few to demoralize a fighting force, it's a shame,
But it was a crime to stand silent and let the veterans take the blame.
People like me were ready to die, and did -- we believed the American way:
God is Freedom, Freedom is Life, but for this life some of us must pay.

When my chronicles are over, when my actions and words cease to be,
When my tour of life comes to close, and a memory 'tis all left of me,
I leave behind this one truth, this one fact undeniable under the sun:
I went, I served, I did what was asked of me, and by God's grace I won.

So after the many years of flashbacks, of nightmares, severe depression,
You must know combat is not just a tour, it takes you into possession.
You must also know that I did not fail, I am no national sinner,
I was sent into ultimate competition where there never is a winner.

What else do you want from me?  What else could I possibly give?
I gave my youth, my health, my mind, every real reason to live.
But I do go on living in hope that things will be better tomorrow;
Today I live the result of the madness, in a state of perpetual sorrow.

(© Doc G)


Our Corpsman

Our corpsman is going home today,
He came through our aid station.
We carried him slow, our heads bowed low,
For ours is a lost sensation.

The burial bag he is wrapped in,
It's dark, it's damp, it's cold.
He's not a hero, just a Doc,
But his story must be told.

He came to this land months ago,
His determination strong,
To treat the wounded Leathernecks
That fight the Vietcong.

His only job was to treat the wounds,
His mission to save a life.
His tools weren't the tools of death,
The bomb, the gun, or knife.

A mission of mercy they called it,
This sailor in camouflaged greens.
No hospital ship or dispensary,
Just sharing a hell with Marines.

Some complained of climbing mountains,
They're commonly seen in this land
Where the life or death of a comrade
Is the fate often held in his hands.

But fate is not always there with them,
This corpsman, his future denied.
Over a wounded Marine he was treating,
On the soil of Vietnam he died.

Yes, he came to our place today,
Tonight he's crossing the foam.
Beyond the call, he gave his all,
Our corpsman is going home.

(© Doc G)


The next poem was written by Doug Todd, who served in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines in 1966-1967.  All of Doug's poems reflect true stories. 




Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.

I really don't care what they say,
Pancho's not an M.I.A. ,
I saw him fall, near Quang Tri, late one night.
The next day I tried to explain
but they just thought I'd gone insane ...
and, after all these years the record is still not right.

From the Barrios of San Antone
he came ... and mostly walked alone;
But Pancho was my friend, I knew him well.
It was I who wrote to Pancho's Mother ...
wrote his sister ... wrote his brother ...
they had to know the way it was when Pancho fell!

It was the night of Pancho's glory!
Why won't they let me tell that story?
Doctor, I know all there is to tell!
It was the hour of his soul's liberation ...
Dark as deepest Hell's damnation!
We fought all night ... the time when Pancho fell.

How it happened was just this way;
we'd been point squad on a sweep all day ...
the mosquitoes were driving us out of our mind,
and, it was raining so hard we were all half blind ...
at the edge of a paddy and half in the wood ...
trapped in a mine field ... they'd caught us real good!

"Charlie" had booby-trapped it well,
and the system he used was straight from hell!
We couldn't move and we could barely fight ...
it was raining again and we'd lost the light.

Jim was wounded ... maybe dying ...
out in the darkness we heard others crying.
"Hail Mary", I heard Pancho saying ...
and I thought it might be time for praying.

Jim was hurt and Pancho wanted to go;
I understood but I had to say no.
They had been close friends right from the start;
(It was hero worship on Pancho's part!)
But, I had to do what was best for the squad ...
And, I couldn't expect any help from God.

The night kept closing in around us ...
after a while the mortars found us ...
They had cut us off from our platoon ...
They would try to over-run us soon.
Ammunition running low ...
no response on the radio;
A flicker of light, sometimes, from a flare ...
but then the tracers filled the air!
With a team in the paddy and two in the wood ...
we just held on the best that we could.

It was the night of Pancho's Glory ...
Why won't they listen to his story?
It's not an easy thing to have to tell.
It was the hour of his soul's liberation ...
Dark as deepest Hell's damnation!
It rained all night ... the time when Pancho fell.

We just kept holding all that night,
not daring to believe we'd see the light.

"Hail Mary ..." a whisper that was barely a breath ...
"Mother of God ..." the mortars were falling ...
"Holy Mary" ... I heard Pancho calling ...
"Pray for us sinners, now at this hour of our death!"
"Mother of God!" ... that rain kept falling ...
out in the darkness we could hear Jim calling ...
there was nothing we could do to ease his pain.

All night long I heard Pancho praying;
"Holy Mother!" He just kept saying,
"Pray for us sinners ... at this hour of our death."

"Hail Mary, full of Grace," --
I saw the tears on Pancho's face --
"Mother of Mercy ... Holy Queen," --
he was loading another magazine ...
"Pray for us in this dark hour;
Shield us with thy Son's great power!"

Look!!Can't you see the tracers streaming?
Can't you hear the wounded screaming?
If I'm lying, let'em damn my soul to Hell!
Can't you feel the mortars falling?
Can't you hear Jim out there calling?
Doctor, don't you care how Pancho fell?

They say I lost my mind, that night;
for all I know, they could be right ...
I know I lost a lot ... when Pancho fell.
I just reported what I had seen ...
my record shows a good marine ...
but, I guess, sometimes it seems that I'm not well.

If you weren't there how could you know?
How can you tell me it's not so?
Doctor, I was there when Pancho fell!

Then, we were half-drowned in the mud ...
it seemed Jim's cries would freeze my blood;
Three times they came and we held on,
with most of our ammunition gone.
Pancho and I were not far apart ...
I knew this night was breaking his heart ...
I tried to say something to comfort him,
But he couldn't hear me ... he was just hearing Jim.

There was a big old log that we were behind ...
and ... I thought Pancho'd lost his mind!
He threw down his rifle and his helmet too ...
I knew, too late, what he meant to do!
"Forgive me, Father", I heard him say ...
And he signed the cross as he turned away;
Then he was over the log and into the night ...
from somewhere there came just the faintest light.

Mary praised, above all women!
Through the mud I saw Pancho swimming!
I tried to cover him the best I could,
but, I didn't much think it would do any good.
When he disappeared, I started to pray ...
though I really didn't know what to say.
Then I saw him come struggling back
just as they started their last attack!

He had Jim's M-60 in his right hand ...
and I saw him turning to make a stand!
Somehow ... the air turned a little more bright ...
and an alien war-cry ripped the night!
With Jim's body draped on his left shoulder ...
he stood his ground like a super-soldier!

Now, I was shooting more than praying ...
Jim's M-60 just kept spraying ...
no chance that we could hold'em back ...
everywhere I looked was a wave of black!

Blessed Mary! Holy Mother!
He took one round ...and then another!
But, Jim's gun never wavered from his side!
Queen of Heaven ... hear my cry!
Let me reach him before I die!
Let me take my stand at Pancho's side!

Crawling ... Praying ... running to him ...
I saw the tracers rip right through him ...
they shot him fourteen times that I could tell!
His legs trembling ... knees starting to bend ...
I knew that we had reached the end ...
But, I was half way there before Jim's body fell!

Again that war-cry ripped the air ...
The night grew brighter everywhere ...
Pancho's body floated down ...
and stretched out ... left side to the ground ...
a candle burned at his head and feet ...
and I smelled incense ... strange and sweet!

From somewhere, suddenly, a lady there!
In a cloud of brightness in the air ...
in blue and white all wrapped around ...
she stood and never touched the ground!

I saw the Lady turning to me ...
felt her brown eyes burning through me ...
I-felt-something-break-inside-me ...
and, I floated ... looking down from way up high!

I can't describe how it was raining,
but, the light from those candles just kept gaining
'til it seemed to light up all the earth and sky!

Blessed Virgin!  Holy Queen!
Most Glorious sight I've ever seen!

She lifted Pancho like a child ...
kissed his brow and then she smiled ...
stroked his hair and rocked him to and fro.
Hail Mary, full of Grace!
She wiped the tears from Pancho's face ...
and ... I'm sure she smiled at me as she turned to go!

Then, somehow, I was back in the mud ...
binding Jim's wounds to stop the blood.
Pancho and the Lady were no longer there ...
no sign of a candle anywhere.

Jim never spoke another word ...
hasn't yet ... the last I heard.
They keep him locked in a ward, down there ...
restrained ... in his bed or in a chair.
When I'd visit he was hard to recognize ...
like there was nobody there behind the eyes.
He didn't know me and I barely knew him ...
something in that chair ... not really Jim.

You asked, and I've told it the best I can.
That's all you can ask of any man.
It was an awful night ... but, each did his best ...
if you don't mind, Doctor, I need some rest.

But! Mother of God! That rain keeps falling!
Out in the dark I still hear Jim calling ...
and, Doc ... these damned old pills don't ease the pain!
Down all the roads that I keep walking ...
all night long I hear Pancho talking ...
I guess I'll hear him as I draw my final breath;
All through the night he keeps on praying;
"Blessed Mother", he just keeps saying,
"Pray for us sinners ... now, in this hour of our death."

(C)1997 Doug Todd. With permission















More to Come!




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