For Bac Tien
By Michael Kovacevich
They came from places with names we had never heard,
Langdon, North Dakota
They came, raw-boned, smiling, tousle-haired,
These American boys.
Their eyes shone with wonder and fear as they stepped off the plane and
Were enveloped by the wall of heat in Vietnam.
It took only days to realize that the stench of death was a warning that this
Was not a friendly place.
An enemy who dared not show his face, who killed from behind cover and who
Popped out of tunnels and ran away.
To survive was to win.
It became a personal war.
I did not serve, but I honor those who did, who lived, who died.
Young men and women who left a piece of themselves on that foreign shore.
Years later, these good men and women look around, and silently whisper,
As they see the marching bands and the jets fly overhead honoring today’s Iraqi War Veterans,
“Where is My Parade?”
“I served. I answered the call. I am the forgotten.”
They look along the Mall, and see the bronze soldiers with their capes against the Korean winter, and say, “Brother, I understand. We, too, were greeted with silent shores, with
Muted trumpets, and lowered hands, and downcast eyes. Such as it may be, we stand beside you. We chosen few. We brothers and sisters in arms.”
They look at each other and say,
“We are the American Vietnam veterans.
We answered the call.
Our pride is deep.
We will never forget
Dong Ap Bia
And countless fire bases secured with American blood, with sharp-shooting Wyoming boys who smiled their last time on some forgotten wire, with warrant officers who risked their lives to evacuate the wounded and took one themselves and did not make it home, with brown water riverine Navy men who silently patrolled the dangerous channels with no name and death around every corner.
They look at each other and say, “We answered the call. We stand proud this Memorial Day. We will never forget.”