Saturday, July 25, 2009

Spirit In The Sky Pilot

He has dreams.
Dreams of recovery.
He sits up in a cot
at the VA Medical Center...
Every few minutes,
his face wrinkles...
he begins to cry.
The chaplain says
"Think positive!"
The 63 year old Vietnam vet
has cancer.
He admits
that he neglected
his health for years...
his eyes welling up with tears.
he can no longer speak.
He stayed away from psychiatric treatment
for fear of being labeled "crazy" .
He lapsed from his faith years ago,
He’s found faith again.
He’s a Catholic.
"There has to be something
higher than where we are.
I have to believe that."
He struggles with thoughts of death.
"If God wants me to die,"
"that's okay."
"Think positive," the chaplain says.

Collateral Damages

They put to death
a mentally disturbed Vietnam veteran
On death row for 18 years,
the 60-year-old grandfather,
was executed by lethal injection.
He was convicted of killing
a 78-year-old woman.
Attorneys argued
that he had a Vietnam War flashback
and was in a drug- and alcohol-induced haze
when he killed.
The Governor rejected an appeal for clemency
He received the Purple Heart medal
while on death row.
He spent his birthday,
counting down the hours
to his 12:01 a.m. execution
and asked that the $50
allotted for his last meal
go to homeless veterans.

Missing In Action

She knew something was wrong
when her husband couldn’t remember
their favorite fishing spot —
A Vietnam veteran
who is now 60, he
didn’t seem to know
they had a favorite spot.
He had to leave his job.
She left her job
to manage the household
and take care of him.
Her husband takes a bus
to a VA program.
He got off the bus,
but never joined his group
and wandered into a neighborhood.
A woman getting in her car
to head for work
saw “a strange man”
standing in her yard.
He seemed confused
about where he was supposed to be.
It’s not unheard of
for veterans to wander.
It generally isn’t a problem,
as police can easily spot them
and help them.
“We are committed to caring
for these veterans,” said the VA

An Old Vet -- Who Cares

He knows what it's like
to fear for his life.
He knows how it feels
to board a plane,
deploying for combat.
He knows the feeling
of making it home alive.
He’s among the last people
soldiers see as they deploy
and the first they see upon their return.
The 64-year old vet has been there
to shake their hands
and give them a token of support:
a small American flag.
"When they get on that plane,
they're gonna know
that this old Vietnam vet cares."
'It's OK to be scared.
You stay scared, you stay alive.'"
Sometimes it breaks his heart
because he asks himself,
'Which one of these people
is not coming home?'"

Silence Of The Lambs

Veterans of the Vietnam War
haven't said much.
They fought in a place
most of them knew nothing about
and for a reason most of them
only vaguely understood.
They did it at the risk of death.
They did it because
their country asked them
because they thought
it was the right thing to do.
The two wars are not unlike.
Their origins by men
with little understanding of history
We are spending our national treasure
and killing our young people and for what?
The outcry from veterans of Vietnam
has been neither particularly loud
nor particularly public,
Maybe they are confused.
Maybe the veterans of Vietnam
are weary of this war.
Maybe the veterans of Vietnam
remember how the nation
turned critical and cold
to their sacrifices
while they continued to be killed.
Or maybe they fear
what comes to those
who question war.
The nation no longer
can afford the war.
Maybe the veterans of Vietnam
just want to be left alone,
maybe they are no different
than veterans of all the wars.
After fighting many battles
all they want is peace.

Free Falling Through The Cracks

He did two tours in Vietnam .
He joined the Army as a teenager,
and is now 64 years old.
In the past months,
he has slept in motels,
in a laundromat bathroom,
at The Salvation Army
and outside in the rain.
He doesn’t want sympathy, though.
He has his challenges.
He was shot in the guts in Vietnam.
He collapsed in the bathroom
and, because of that stroke,
he now uses a walker.
It takes a half-hour
to put on his underwear
because of limited use of his left leg.
He has trouble reading
because of vision problems.
He also notices problems with short-term memory.
He needs help every day, and doesn’t know
what cracks he’s going to fall through
if somebody doesn’t help.
How many guys fall through the cracks
all over the United States.
He’s large and speaks with a raspy voice.
He saw a lot of death in Vietnam
Freedom doesn’t come cheap.


40 years later,
his spirit is still recovering.
He emits an aura of strength and serenity
that belies the trauma
that has dogged him throughout his life.
He has suffered from alcohol and drug abuse
and post traumatic stress disorder,
He was not diagnosed with PTSD until
three decades of being in and out of prisons
for armed robbery, larceny and drug dealing
and stints of living on the streets.
PTSD treatment
enabled him to turn his life around.
It was the same government
he had hated for years that saved his life.
The voices of the past are softer now
but still not silent.
They're always clamoring ... to drown out feelings,
to make me remember experiences in Vietnam.

Never Again

It’s the veterans who are fighting the war,
it’s the veterans who are left to deal
with the consequences after the war,
it’s the veterans who are left without a voice.
He unrolls a banner displaying Americans
killed and wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is a Vietnam war veteran.
Of all the people in attendance
to protest the war,
the veterans in the crowd,
had the most enlightened perspectives on the issue.
When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started,
he couldn’t help but recall memories of Vietnam.
He saw the same thing happening.
He was glued to the TV
and wanted to do something to help.
Having dealt with his own PTSD
He didn’t want to see another generation
go through the same difficulties.
The best thing he could do for them
was to help get them out of harm’s way
and get America out of the war.
“I want to make people aware of the true cost of war.”

Time Flies

Vietnam veterans
are becoming museum pieces.
They have been known
to hoist a few down
at the VFW Post.
Eventually the little group broke up.
This isn't the last reunion
for these old soldiers.
It has been 45 years since
They had such a delightful time
in the Mekong River Delta.
Vietnam guys used to be
such wild young fellows.
Time just flies
when you're getting old.

Born To Be Free

He rolls out his motorcycle,
starts the engine, and goes for a ride.
He hopped on his first motorcycle
after the Vietnam War,
and found peace and solace
He found he could get away
from civilization.
A completely different world
out there.
You’ll find
many Vietnam Veterans
on the road.
It’s an escape.
It’s freedom.
‘We went as strangers,
came home as brothers.’
A whole new generation of veterans
understand what it means
to seek escape
on a long highway.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Vietnam Veteran Lost

He’s 60 years old.
The skinny Vietnam vet
displays a Marine Corps tattoo
on his right forearm.
Once a tough guy.
He was 17 when he joined the service.
He should have been graduating
from high school.
He was killing people.
He saw things done no boy his age
should ever see.
He was never right
after he got back from Vietnam.
Wal-Mart let him go
He burned through his unemployment
and all of his savings.
Cancer ate that up.
He's broke.
He applied for help
from the VA.
It never got processed.
It was lost.
Nobody ever told him
how to get help.
When he got out of the VA hospital
they didn't say anything.
All they did was call him a cab.
The only benefit they promised him
was his burial benefit,"
A whole $300.

Welcome Home Again

Some Vietnam veterans are still struggling
with the way they were treated
when they returned home.
The memories are starting to fade.
He is almost 65 but remembers
his homecoming was like "The Twilight Zone."
He went from being on a river boat
during an ambush to being back
in the cold snow in 48 hours.
While the time he spent fighting
is long behind him,
the effect of the war has stayed with him.
He wasn't diagnosed with PTSD
until about four or five years ago.
It's nothing drastic,
like some of the guys have suffered,
but it has affected him through all these years.
He lost some friends
and saw some terrible things.

Another Crazed Vet Incident

The 61-year-old Vietnam veteran
is facing a felony
for striking and threatening
to kill his girlfriend.
He barricaded himself
inside his house.
The woman called police
and said he had grabbed her,
shoved her and threatened to kill her.
The woman fled the home screaming
and told officers that he had guns,
had a history of psychiatric problems
and was threatening to kill himself.
He finally came out unarmed.
Inside the man’s home,
police fund four loaded guns
as well as two drums of jet fuel.
It wasn’t illegal
to possess the jet fuel
but the fuel had the potential
to blow up his house.