MILITARY BOOTS (An anthology of war poetry)
His letter re our anthology is attached. John Ralston Saul is a very well known Canadian author and his positive comments re the soldier poets, are very meaningful, indeed. Gave my son his copies of the books I ordered from you. He took them to school with him to read between classes he is a school teacher and some of his students started to take them off his desk to read. The students thought they were great and were passing them around when they finished them.
To make a long story short, my son donated the books to the school library in my name. Please pass on to all the writers who submitted poems that they can be found in the Cambridge-Isanti High School Library in Cambridge, Minnesota. Right now there is a waiting list to check them out. Terry is a friend from another [Yahoo] group comprised of Long Binh Vietnam vets. He has even shared our anthologies with his fellow 4th Infantry comrades at their annual get-togethers. Needless to say, I too was very touched when he, after receiving a copy of the second anthology, asked for details on how to order more… not just the latest, but also the first!
I think I already have your answers and it is an honor to be included and accepted as one of you… warts and all! Once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart Becky Haskell February 9, Reproduced with permission. I donated one to our local library and they have it on display on the shelf there. So Anthony what a blessed collection of people and poetry works. Paul McCann 25 March Many Blessings, Billy May 12, Just wanted to pass this on to you.
Laren McClung's Inheriting the War Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and R
Take care, Terry Weibel May 12, Usually I began with jumping jacks, and on this one morning as I was jumping along and leading the company, I could hear the men break out into a roar of laughter. I scanned the ranks looking for the reason. Lo and behold, there he was, in the last row, rear left-hand corner of the formation. It was Ernesto, jumping around in spasms of unsynchronized, discombobulated movement.
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He looked like a fish that had just landed on the deck of a boat, flapping around waiting to be clubbed. At first, I thought it was an act and began to get angry, thinking he was trying to get laughs during my P. I watched him for a couple of seconds more and came to the conclusion that this was no act. The harder Ernesto tried to get in synch with everyone else, the worse he looked. That was who Ernesto was. It was time to come up with a game plan for him or he would get himself or someone else killed.
I decided one day to have a discussion with our battalion sergeant major in reference to Ernesto. As soon as the topic was broached, the sergeant major began to smile. Ernesto, it turns out, had been in his company some years back when he was a first sergeant. During training, Ernesto started to squirrel away food from the mess tent and keep it in his backpack in anticipation of some unknown impending famine. But on that day, the mess tent had served fresh milk, and Ernesto, not realizing the difference, stuck the containers of milk in his duffel bag.
A few days later, people heard screaming in the middle of the night from somewhere inside the patrol base; Ernesto was on the ground writhing in pain and clutching his stomach in agony. The cause of his illness was consumption of spoiled milk. But there was something else he said that stunned me: Ernesto, prior to this deployment, had been homeless and living in a city shelter. This was why he had been squirreling away the food, and this was why he had been saving the milk; these were habits he had cultivated from being homeless for so long.
A few days later, I was informed that Ernesto would be transferred to the headquarters company to work in their supply room. Essentially, Ernesto would get a job that would not require him to leave the camp to go out on missions. Problem solved, case closed. Some weeks went by, and, one night while working late in my office, I heard a soft tap on my office door. Ernesto shuffled quietly into my office, shy and apologetic for disturbing me. I told him to come in, sit down, and tell me what was bothering him.
He sat down wringing his hands and looking all around my office, studying every nook and cranny and every object in the room. I gently asked him what was on his mind. He finally looked me in the face timidly and asked if he could come back to the company and be with the men. I was a little surprised by his comment, and I asked him if he was unhappy where he was.
He said that the supply sergeant was taking very good care of him and that he liked the work he was doing and the hours he kept. He quietly stated that he knew the men would be risking their lives soon in combat and that he wanted to be with the men and would do anything he could to help them—even if it meant picking up the dead and filling body bags. We were weeks away from deploying to Iraq, and the newspapers and cable channels were rampant with stories about people getting their heads cut off, convoys being ambushed on a regular basis, and U.
I realized that his comment was not just an idle or morbid statement. For all his awkwardness and childlike qualities, Manuel Ernesto showed more compassion for his fellow-soldiers than they ever showed him. I felt ashamed at that moment, especially considering that some men in my company were trying to do everything in their power to get out of going off to fight. Here was Ernesto, a guy who was homeless and shunned by the rest of civilized society, and, in the end, he turned out to have more heart and guts than most. I told him that if the day ever came when, God forbid, I had to pick up my fallen soldiers, it would be an honor for me if he could help in any way.
He smiled and tears welled up in the corners of his eyes. He quietly got up and saluted me in an awkward manner, and I saluted back, not having the heart to tell him that I was a sergeant and only officers get saluted. Sergeant Timothy J. Gaestel, twenty-two, Austin, Texas. E-mail to his father, from south of Baghdad. September 21, Hey, Dad, this is your son. First off: let me tell you we made it here safe and so far, but everything is going very good.
Now, Dad, I know that you have already received a phone call that tells you I am O. We were heading south down Highway 8 and I was gunning for the second truck. Byrd was driving and my chief was the passenger. I was in the back of the truck with my B machine gun, and the S2 [an intelligence officer] wanted to ride in the back of the truck with me, since I was the only one back there. We were at the end of the convoy at this point so we were really hauling ass, driving down the wrong side of the road and all that, just so we could get to the front of the convoy.
My buddy Eddie was a badass driver and kept us from getting in wrecks a few times. But still able to get the mission done. The X. At that exact moment, a loud and thunderous boom went off and pushed me all the way to the front of where my B was mounted. I knew something had just happened and when I turned around I could see two large smoke clouds on each side of the road. The first thing I thought was that I had just been hit in the back by an I. Before that I honestly thought it had just hit my I. It turns out that it had hit my I. As you can imagine, I was pretty pissed off at this point, and I showed my anger toward the people in the town that we were driving through.
I had my M4 rifle at the ready and my trigger finger on the trigger and was just waiting for someone to give me a reason to have me put it from safe to semi. I maintained my military bearing as well as one could in that situation. I sure wanted to shoot the bastard that had just set the I. As we were making our way back to the F. There was a major who was our field surgeon waiting for me in the front of the gate to check me out. When I told him that I was O. They rushed me to the aid station, where I talked to some sergeant majors and the colonel. In like fifteen minutes, in my brown underwear, green socks up to my knees, and a blanket, I was rushed out to the landing zone where a chopper took me to C.
The flight through Baghdad was amazing, too, you could see the whole city and all the buildings and stuff, it was very strange. The helicopter pilot was a badass as well, he had to do a wartime landing, which is really fast and quick, it was cool. Now when I landed, a female second lieutenant took me into the E. She came up to me and ripped off my blanket, grabbed my brown undies, and ripped those off too and gave me a catheter. Now that was more painful than the I. Then she gave me some morphine and I was good.
They did an X-ray of my back and found that I had two pieces of shrapnel in my back. So, yeah, now your son is going to have two pieces of metal in his back for the rest of his life. I was cleaned up and taken to patient hold. A place that is something out of a movie. It was horrible to see all the soldiers with missing legs and arms and bandages everywhere. Shortly afterward, I was given some morphine and I passed out. A Purple Heart recipient—I guess all it means is that some guy got me before I could get him. We will joke about this all someday, Dad.
Sergeant Tina M.
The Subject Makes a Difference: Poetry by Women Veterans of the Vietnam War
Beller, twenty-nine, Allentown, Pennsylvania. E-mail to her parents, from the Green Zone, Baghdad. September 12, I am sure by now you can read the news and watch the tube and know that we were severely attacked with a barrage of rockets yesterday morning, your nighttime. At any rate, I am just writing to let you know that physically I remain unharmed. Emotionally and mentally is a different story. I never would have thought my day would have started out this way. I was the first responder to a building within our compound that was hit by a rocket.
I was driving back into the compound around from my usual early-morning routine when the hair on my arms stood up. I saw smoke in the distance and a man waving his arms above him in the universal distress signal. I thought maybe something was on fire from an explosion. From inside the well-padded palace, I never thought that any of the earlier impact rounds I heard were from down here where I lived. I thought it was just the palace being bombarded again. And for certain I never thought we would have taken casualties.
Iraqi workers—three. The first Iraqi casualty I saw came briskly walking down the street toward me. He seemed very alarmed, sort of crazy. I could tell he was in shock. He reminded me of a Ping-Pong ball, walking back and forth, talking, mumbling, although I had no idea who he was speaking to.
His mandible was completely shattered inside the structure of his mouth.
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He made zero sense when he spoke. He just kept giving me sign language over his belly. I think he was trying to tell me someone was pregnant. I was kind of worried. His head was abnormally larger than the rest of his slender body. The mixture of blood and spit that poured from his mouth looked really weird, like a fountain, a bright-red gurgling fountain.
I later discovered he died as well—trauma to his head. Just even typing that—trauma to his head—I should have known he would pass. Yet I was so hopeful the almighty American soldiers could save him. His buddy, who sat cross-legged with his back to me in the now demolished living room, was chanting and rocking. The three of them were probably honoring their first call to prayer at the time when the rocket struck. Had I gone through the window, maybe then I would have seen the dead guy, the third casualty, camouflaged with soot and debris. He took over for me, obviously, since he was much more qualified than I.
He really did all the work, not me. I just ran for help, got an ambulance, and then at in the morning, I started screaming for help. I need a medic! The weirdest thing of all was the absolute evil feeling that hit my body when I tried to bust through the door the first time, when I was alone with the casualties, before the Navy SEAL came.
It actually stopped me in my tracks. The Iraqi behind me kept nudging me in the doorway, but my legs were glued to the ground. A Vietnam veteran here with us explained to me last night what I felt was the presence of death. I never did find out who came for the deceased. After somebody told me I was full of blood, I kind of thought I should go home and shower and get prepared for the next barrage of attacks.
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And without fail, they came, too. They hit while I was in the shower. I had been fine until this time, not really reacting to what I had just seen and the little run I took to call for an ambulance. It was all I could do to keep my little legs strong, but I finally just gave in to the little trembles and just sat down in the shower and cried. I made it back to my room after a long heaving cry and began to dress in my uniform.
I realized I needed to chill before I was going to defend us anywhere. Since the attack, I have gone back once to see the area that was just barely lit. Partial brain remains from the deceased are still on the cement floor, except now they are pinkish with cement gristle all folded into them, and oven baked from the sun. Somebody tried to be discreet, but did a poor job in covering it up. The gate that was once there is all blown to hell. They have cheap yellow police tape around the place. And of course, pools of blood, some dark and brown, some still red and fresh, reminded me of the tragedy that occurred earlier that morning.
I saw the pile of rocks that I tripped over in the morning dusk and chaos because I was trying to run and thought I was lighter than air, I guess. I was glad to see somebody had. Upon later inspection of the attacked house, we found out the object behind the door was the remnants of the rocket. I saw all the cans of fresh paint that were stacked outside the building. The Koreans had hired these three Iraqi men to fix up the place for the Korean Embassy to move in.
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Guess the Koreans are going real-estate shopping, huh? But most of all, the veterans I spoke to last night told me I will probably smell paint sometime in the future, and it will remind me of this day, this horrible event.
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From what they had heard, I had done the right thing, the honorable thing. Then how would you really know what happened? No jovial banter among the crew. No jokes of home. No wisecracks about the origin of the meat served at the chow hall, just the noise of the flight—the scream of the engines, the whir of the blades clawing at the air, the voice crackling over the radio and echo of your own thoughts about the boy in the bag in the back.
Yesterday I was in the T. Normally, after flying missions, pilots drift around the T. Instead of the usual swagger, he was dazed. I asked him what was wrong. When we pick up friendly K. He told me he picked up a U. He tried to shrug it off as just another mission, but it was obviously bothering him. A few seconds later, he left, but his look stayed with me.
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Body bags must have been in the stars because later the colonel announced that the heaters in the medevac helicopters were not working that well. It can get very cold in the back of a Black Hawk because the wind seeps in through cracks in the window seals. However, the medics forgot to explain this to their patients, who understandably freaked out.
Why is death always so cold? Pump, return, pump, return, wake up, eat, work, sleep, wake up—back and forth, back and forth, boom! Rocket attack. Pump, return, pump, return. This morning I went to work and found a V. On the front cover was a picture of an injured twenty-something soldier, his face and forehead purpled with bruises, his lips swollen and cut, his left eye half closed, his arm in a sling, fingernails black with dried blood, his thighs blotched with red abrasions and his leg wrapped in an ace bandage, amputated below the knee.
He was sitting in a hospital bed with a half smile on his face. This one was of a young Navy guy lying in a hospital bed. His wife was sitting beside him. She was not smiling. Captain Ed Hrivnak, thirty-four, Spanaway, Washington, member of a medevac crew. March-July, That means eleven litter patients, seven walking wounded, and two attendants. Some can take care of themselves, some need lots of help. All have been waiting for us for a long time and need pain medicine and antibiotics. The patients include: G. The patients are mainly from the Marines and st Airborne Screaming Eagles.
Many were involved in ambushes. One trooper confides in me that he witnessed some Iraqi children get run over by a convoy. He was in the convoy and they had strict orders not to stop. If a vehicle stops, it is isolated and an inviting target for a rocket-propelled grenade. He tells me that some women and children have been forced out onto the road to break up the convoys so that the Iraqi irregulars can get a clear shot.
But the convoys do not stop. He tells me that dealing with that image is worse than the pain of his injury. Back in Germany, the patients are offloaded and we clean up our mess. Then a sergeant comes out and declares that we have to sign a paper stating we will not drink and drive in Germany.