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Eagle Flight

by Gary Jacobson
Sitting alone on heated tarmac with brothers
A greenie awaits his first “Eagle Flight,”
Helicopters to carry combat infantrymen
To battles beyond sight...
Emptily joking,
Of what’s soon to come not speaking,
That whomp whomp whomp sound dreading
Yet ready for the cry rallying,
Waiting for the eagle flight
To carry us to wage the good fight.

We’re combat infantrymen bravely ignoring
This herd of elephants down there stomping
Butterflies in the pit of our stomachs
On gossamer wings floating...
In our innards plummet

While we young boys, in full battle gear
Now and then cocking an ear
Are listlessly waiting,
That awful whomp whomp whomp
In nightmarish daydreams hearing
Drumming, drumming, drumming in the fearing.

Knowing somewhere out there in the blue
Eye-in-the-sky choppers flew,
Keeping an eagles eye looking,
Looking for troops in black pajamas.
Looking for action embattled dramas
Searching for Vietcong moving
Searching for Charlies concentrating.
A bevy of huge olive birds
Sent mid dust blown confusion blurred
Would sweep down and pick us up

Giddyup, and we're off to the war
'Cause war's what we're looking for...
I look out a wide Huey door to try seeing
Where we’re going....
Where this sky trooper is being driven
But logistics are given
On a basis of need-to-know,
And grunts just don’t need-to-know!

Flying high in the sky...
Emotionless as panorama’s pass by
Thinking this war
Sure ain't no bore...
Totally by the awesome sight chilled
In fascination below the clouds skimmed,
Mesmerized at the site hypnotized
Feeling down our necks the heat
In a whomp whomp whomp
Rhythm of jungle beat...

Feeling safe, for the moment...
Each buried in his own thought wondering
What the next moment
Would be bringing
As for the moment of truth readying...
Armaments mentally checking...
Face-to-face, silent prayers saying...
Whomp whomp whomp

Six brothers ride to war in each Huey.
Not a one thinking now of liberty,
Just hoping to live thru the next few moments,
Adjusting again our armaments,
Hoping to survive
To come out the other end alive
Drawn faces disregarding
Peasants knee deep in rice paddies working,
Peasants on the road to market to go,
Vietnamese boys riding water buffalo...
Earthbound beings surrounded by green walls
Moving on cut-from-the-jungle halls.

Grim boys psyching for the killing,
No time now for philosophizing,
Watching as horizons closed,
Above earth superimposed.
Far above this microcosm called war.
Strangely “The world” spinning on just as before.

Knowing somewhere out there people are living
In routine lives dying,
Of our little bullshit predicament,
Of our life and death involvement,
Of the fear we daily bear,
Totally unaware
Just living their lives without thinking
Wholly without comprehension or care...
Of heartaches America’s boys far away bore
In this war-to-end-all war!

Though battle is far,
Quite suddenly here we are.
Suddenly copters are lowering
Brothers climbing on chopper skids readying
To the blow-torched floor to go jumping
Watching rising malignant earth
Praying of Vietcong there’s silent dearth,
Hoping the LZ's cold
Calling up spirit's bold
Bestial hearts pounding,
Adrenaline pumping
Red blood flowing,
Readying for their very lives running...

Choppers drop us suddenly,
In the same moment leaving
Suddenly we’re up, we’re moving.
Midst din suddenly quieting
Harsh reality replacing dreaming.
The beat of the beast in bodies vibrating
Hearts throbbing
Immediately involved in war’s demolition
Lives soon to be lost in bloody attrition
Civilization’s abolition
War's unholy perdition...

Nobody tells us where we’re going,
Where we’ll be toiling.
After all, we’re only grunts,
An Army war-dog that hunts.
We’re not paid the big bucks for thinking
Just for weapons toting
Good only for dying...
We're battle pawns of callous numbers,
Ground-pounding brothers!

Awaiting us is our goal...
An underground village of Main Force Vietcong
Once annihilated a Vietnamese regiment whole
Who our destiny’s to meet all along
Who great carnage dealt in that melee
By these fighting men,
Who once obliterated the French easily,

Men the French called Viet Minh
Just all in all, right friendly folk,
You just had to joke!

When Infantrymen came to visit,
Charlie in his forested pit
Charlie had dee-dee’d
His jungle home abruptly abandoned.
Though brave Infantrymen loudly plead...
Charlie, what gave you your first clue,
We’re here looking for you?

Was it Cobra gunship’s raining fire,
Artillery bringing down your fetid empire,
Jolly Green Giants' with mini-guns blazing,
Spewing rockets to rain on somebody’s parade
Building a hot lead barricade?
Was it air strikes overhead screaming
The jungle all around you exploding,
Hundreds of troops in your house streaming,
Hunting for game,
Armed to the teeth assaulting,
Just looking for someone to blame
And Charlie's the name...

Charlie, did we make the situation
For you most dire?
Please won't you give us an explanation
Did we your escapade inspire
Spur your ignominious retreat?
Or maybe
You were just going out for a bite to eat.

American infantrymen spent the day humping,
Hastily abandoned hooches
For weapons, documents, food caches.
Then farewell bade,
Dropped in a grenade,
“Fire in the hole,”
Don’t even turn to watch the place blow,
Then as evening fell,
Eleven platoons took off like bats out of hell.

Leaving one raggedy platoon to man the fort?
Gotta say, didn’t give much comfort.
What’s up with these day-trippers
Catching commuter choppers,
Taking them away from the war...
Back to where a semblance of sanity will restore,
Transporting them to an LZ’s pre-dug foxholes
To piece together what’s left of their souls.

This night, 27 brave men would live...or die.
Why did the army hang us out to fry?
What's that you say?
Impossible is not a term used by the infantry.
You say, “Not mine to question why!
Mine just to do or die...”
Bull hockey!

Still, what ya gonna do with the hand you’re dealt
Shrivel up like cowards and melt?
We won’t be the last, or the first,
Whose innocent bubble has burst,
Who danced to a bitter song
In this cruel war gone wrong.

So dig defensive foxholes in this alien village,
Moments before wreaked and pillaged.
Two thousand surrounding Charlies mad as hell at us
Had to be enraged in a hell of a fuss.
What we did had to make somebody awful mad,
Just a tad...

So, what am I doing here,
Burned the thought in the eyes of 27 desperate men.
What the hell am I doing here
In the home of the Viet Minh.

There's no room for warning trip flares...
No room in the jungle to set claymores.
Army's left us as nothing more than expendable bait?
How soon before we’d know our fate?

Not long I fear...
Not long...
Before Charlie, whose coming I hear
Tears youthful souls asunder,
Makes us pay for seeking plunder
Makes us pay for our combat blunder.

Listen to him out there cursing,
Enraged men Yelling,
Fear to inspire
Trying to draw our fire,
That they might determine just where we are...
How many of us there are...

They’d likely bust a gut if they only knew
How few
Huddled in the middle of their alien destruction
Once their homes before our unholy conflagration.
Surely, they’d laugh and laugh
As like a hot knife through butter they overrun us.
In only a minute bestial legions will kill us,
If they only knew
How few!
But they never knew...
So I’m here to tell the tale,
How I jumped out of the belly of the whale.

The next morning we just humped on out...
Leaving behind frustrated hue and shout.
Moving swiftly through elephant grass eye high
Jungle canopies reaching almost to the sky,
Humping meadows just right for ambushes.
Acres of wait-a-minute bushes
Thick walls of bamboo
Reach out to grab you,
Hold you,
Tear at you.

Two Cong up a tree.
Clambered up to see what they could see,
Saw more than they wanted to see.
Surprised just a bit,
By our hasty exit,
Cong snipers fired on our platoon,
Knowing full well suicide
Would visit soon
So we gladly complied
Blowing them away,
Making sure they couldn’t fight another day.

Hovering over them face-to-face,
Soldiers grimly saw
They had no face.
M-60 machine guns had stripped them clean.
These were the first bodies I’d ever seen.
Only a tatter of clothes remained,
On riddled bodies maimed,
A pink mass of blood and gore...
Nothing more,
Terrible fruits of a terrible war!

And deep in my heart I cried...
Something in me eternally died.
As in the jungle called Le Hong Fong
Life’s plans played tragically wrong
In life’s most fatal song...

American dove Visit my Vietnam Poems index,
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