Here I am out in "the park," (L to R)Isenbardt, Oertel, and me, Gary Jacobson...just boys really, but war is a tough, man's business where you have to grow up quick or you're not going to survive one firefight, much less make it back home to "the world."
Look at my draft photo below...I look so young. Look at that "deer in the headlights" stare. Only months separate the above and below. I had no idea ... no idea at all what was going to happen...the horrors those eyes would see ... horrors to last a lifetime. Come to think of it, maybe not knowing was a good thing. This was the end of my boyhood... Nothing would ever be the same again! Was it worth it?
PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, coming to those who fought in Vietnam, has always been an insidious bi-product of war for the young warriors, the boys-next-door who fight in war. Traumatic battle stress during the civil war was called Soldier’s Heart, or the vapors, during the Korean War and World War II PTSD, as yet unnamed, was called battle fatigue, or shell shock.
A soldier’s heart beats within me
Call it the vapors, battle fatigue, PTSD...
For me it's living insanity, you see
Still inside I feel the bestial ogre's caress
Carried from yellowed fields of combat stress
Which long ago left my world a motley mess
Eternally enlisted in hell’s vile red stream
Days of yore still staining nightmare’s dream
Roam wherein I die a thousand times
Commit beaucoup carnal crimes.
I walk intertwined jungle bowels of hell
Show passport stamps to Hades as well
Hear dreadful sound of guns
Revisit daily war’s blazing suns
My discordant mind again and again
Lost in verdant underworld yet again
Smelling battles decayed cordite mist and vapor
Reliving wartime terrors in youthful caper
Where sandbox memories rule sun-splashed days
Filling sweet-and-sour nights with combat forays.
A soldier’s heart sees desparation still
In every man I spy, a shadowed assassin’s eye
Forever back in a land where still
People horribly die
Waiting for those aiming to kill...
Still sweating in contentious combat drill
Rising anxieties besmirching a fragile mind fleeting
Marching forever to endure once more the killing.
A soldier’s heart feels intimately sore pain
Dancing in an addled brain
Driving me nigh insane
Throbbing in memoriam psychological
Pulsating with dinky dau rhythms pathological
Palpitating nightmarish flashbacks
Drumming on the senses virulent attacks
Disruptive uneasiness in worried anxiety
Awakening combat's somber memory
Both good and bad falling on me accusatory.
War’s hammer smashing hand-to-hand
Brought from that sweet-and-sour land
Wreaks today a wretched isolation
Giving veterans no protection
Forevermore hearing cruel war on senses pounding
Thumping crescendos in ears mournfully sounding
Load and lock
Creating violent depression
Thrumming strings of hyper-vigilant obsession.
A soldier’s heart
By what he's seen and done torn apart
Wears a badge of 'forevermore' to impart
Frustrating memories bricky hot
Won with egregious trauma’s death bought
Combatant nerves to hell shot
Always feeling dirty with an ageless dirt
Beaten unmercifully with Satan’s wicked quirt
To the pits of the soul painfully hurt.
Deep in a soldier’s heart
Hide deep dark secrets behind a fortified rampart
Where from time to time
Veterans take out memories sublime
When they're all alone
To remind them of war grown weary to the bone
Recalling lost humanity
The boy lost along with their sanity
Tied with self-loathing devoid of acceptance
Grown tired beyond physical endurance.
A soldier’s heart
Beats in old warrior's skeptical of authority
Who answer "freedom's call" with nobility
By empyrean angels sent
To save a world by oppressor's rent
Enticed by the political mob's lie
Sounded by those caring not for boys who die
Bringing to veterans a painful sigh
Who well up in the dead of night to cry.
Will in vain be my warrior legacy?
Will we not learn lessons from history?
Taught in this most foul debacle called war
By political fatcats keeping score
Ever skewering those who’ve seen more
Than they can bear to see
Who’ve done much more
Than they can in good conscience do
Who’ve lost much more
Than they can afford to lose…
A soldier’s heart lost in war's spin-the-bottle
Still hides much deep pain in a bottle
Fighting anew anxieties darkning thought
Eschewing cruel scars cruel battle wrought
Lost the tender touch
Riding steel horses into battle’s grinding crunch
Relishing lives of anguished sorrow
Needing balm of Gilead to borrow
Seeking understanding healing
A soldier’s heart makes frail life insane
Dredging up old memories profane
Inhaled through clenched teeth
Hearing bullets final crack bequeath.
The Master of Hell must pay the cost
For fresh innocence lost
For the foul carnage of the brotherhood
For boys-next-door lost in rotting mud and blood
For war veterans nightly playing hosts
To brother combatant ghosts.
My memorial wreath comes wrapped in a flag
Zipped in a bag…
Wretched tokens forever to atone
Wearing the fragrance of death like cologne
Hearing a battalion of warriors beleaguered cry
Wondering still why they had to die...
Yet not I … not I
Yet still, though I know not why
I too, rivers of tears cry...
It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. — John Muir (1838-1914).