Vietnam

Performed at the 2012 LTAB Coaches Slam

(Dedicated to my Dad, Arnold Stieber)

You say it all came back in an evening
In front of the tv
Winter 2003
Iraq war about to start
Platoon was on
You had not let yourself go there since ‘70
You let yourself go there that night
You say it all came back
You could see it
Hear it
Smell it

9/11 might have triggered it
The invasion in Iraq rekindled it
But Hollywood
Platoon
Brought it back

Knew growing up you were in Vietnam
Wasn’t really sure what that meant
Knew you were in war but never discussed
Couldn’t play guns, cops and robbers, GI Joe
Knew that was the rule
Told some friends you were in war
Another dad had been too
He didn’t talk about it
Heard he had changed when he got back
Didn’t know if you had

Other friends asked about the guns you used
People you killed
Like in the movies
Never did ask
Still don’t want to

So in 2003 you started talking about it
Little by little
I was 22 and felt like 5
Learning about you for the first time
Stories always pretty general
Nothing too specific
Keeping Vietnam at a distance
You had graduated college got drafted
Never thought you’d be infantry

Stories of basic training
You spoke with a clergy man in the army
You said killing didn’t seem christrian
Clergy said country first
You were trained to kill
Targets that looked like targets
Targets that moved
Targets like humans
Humans that looked like targets
Humans that move
Humans

Stories of Agent Orange
Fragging of “superiors”
R and R in Australia
Christmas in Nam so you could come home quicker
Slurs for the enemy
How soldiers used women
Coping mechanisms to keep sanity

Before you started researching/reading/questioning
A friend former soldier told you not to go down that path
Let it be
You had to go down that path
Now you speak/write/converse
You talk to soldiers home from Iraq/Afghanistan
Stories from them too similar to yours
You see their ghosts
Motivates you to talk to teens about the realities of war/military

Some people don’t want to hear your voice/words/writing
Say things like you’re dad is the only soldier I know who feels like that
Other soldiers they know dont talk or complain about war/death/killing
They don’t know other soldiers back from war
Are killing/over dosing/abusing themselves
War veterans have the highest suicide rate
You told me you thought about it

Soldiers are trained to kill/survive war
Not retrained on how to survive after war
So many don’t talk
You tell me

America teaches that war is necessary
Many soldiers have to believe what they did was necessary
Yet you speak out
Many soldiers fear saying the things they did/saw out loud
Fear of saying what happened may make loved ones distant
That no one can understand what was “normal” unless they were there
You teach me that for a soldier to speak out against war is difficult
You say war is slavery
In 1970 you had three choices
Jail
Leaving the country but knowing you couldn’t return
Or War
You said you weren’t brave enough for the first two

People need to know this
So you speak
I know it’s not easy to do what you do
But I thank you for the difficult path you choose
Soon I will be a dad
I have your path to follow
It ‘s easy to sit back
Believe what you are told
It is difficult to do what you believe
At 22 I started becoming a man
Because you started teaching me what that means

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