Stolen Youth


Youngsters, caught up in delight,
We flew on wings carefree.
Our years of school were now complete;
Our futures soon we'd see.

There had been talk on all the news
Of a war somewhere far away.
But dances, football games and love
Were the order of the day.

Soon came the letters in the mail -
Your country's chosen you
To serve, honor and defend
It's flag, red, white and blue.

Promises of travel came,
A chance to learn new skills.
Become a man, revered by all;
Oh yeah, you'll also learn to kill.

Vietnam, the orders said
But who knew where that was.
They said a war was going on;
We didn't know the cause.

Goodbyes were said to loved ones
And many tears were shed.
We didn't dare to tell them
Of our hearts so full of dread.

Young men and young women
Flew across the sea each day,
To that land called Vietnam -
It seemed so far away.

As if caught up in a time warp
We each stepped off that plane.
And each of us somehow knew
We would never be the same.

The land was torn and barren,
Though jungles did abound.
It seemed as though all life
Had been driven underground.

The plane flew off and left us.
Bewildered there we stood,
Alone and scared with our new families
In our new-found brotherhood.

Though each person had a different task,
Our lives intertwined as one.
Our hearts were united by unspoken words,
When will this hell be done?

The sounds were so different there,
We were frightened to the core.
Mortars, machine guns and mines going off,
We felt death standing at our door.

The choppers' rotors could be heard
Throughout the day and night.
We knew they brought our brothers,
Torn and dying from our fight.

Our time there went so slowly,
In that land of stench and mud.
Our youth lay far behind us;
It was robbed by our own blood.

In Vietnam we lost more than youth.
We lost arms and legs and eyes.
Many came home in body bags,
Met by their families' anguished cries.

We lost our trust in fellowman.
We lost our sanity.
We lost our innocence, it's true,
But we did not lose our dignity.

When people called us killers
And spat upon our face,
We hid our feelings deeper -
Withdrew from this thing called human race.

Ghost-filled dreams still scream at us,
Into our minds they creep.
The terrors of that war so long ago
Still keep us from our sleep.

Forget it! It's over, people say
There's no reason to recall.
But have they ever seen what we have?
Our real families' names are on the Wall.

You're lucky to be alive.
That is what they say.
How can we explain to them
That we don't feel that way?

You see, we were one united,
Our feelings were the same.
A brother's death left us
With a lot of guilt and pain.

Each one of us would gladly
Have stepped into that bullet's way,
To save one of our brothers
So he'd be alive today.

No, we can't and won't forget.
We lost too much in that war.
No medicine - no passage of time
Can remove those awful scars.

Dedicated to my brothers and sisters who served their country in
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Karen (walkwithme) SP5, USA
Vietnam 1969-1970
copyright 1989

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Added 3/17/97