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Who’s a Hero?
June 20, 2024

The Vietnam War harshly divided America, both principally and politically. Personally, I don't think our nation has ever recovered. While there was, especially toward its end, a significant majority that was strongly opposed to it, there were two subgroups within that disapproving crowd. Due to their different reasons for their opposition, they didn't even begin to get along

There were other, also misguided, factions within the American citizenry as I recall I’ll avoid getting into personal opinions here but as a Vietnam War Veteran my observations aren't hearsay. Even after I had been home awhile, I aligned with those who vaguely, silently supported the war out of loyalty to the rank and file military and some ill-defined logic that it was the patriotic thing to do. That made no sense either but, I blame that on my youth.

The truth and facts are that it was poorly conceived, incompetently administered from high-up in the food-chain and probably (excepting perhaps Korea) the first America-involved war that was not wholeheartedly fought to win.  A precedent that continues.

Some of those that supported the war blamed the ground-pounding veteran for its loss. Some of those opposed to the war vented their bitterness on the vets, blanket-accusing all of them of atrocious actions and treating them with organized hostility. Regardless, it's a shameful disgrace that the veterans, the pawns, after all that they had been through, were not welcomed home as they returned.

Welcome Home

Johnny  and I met when still pups
We stayed pards all through our school years
Neighbors on high desert ranches
Sharin’ secrets and ropin’ steers

We'd just graduated high school
When uncle Sam came pokin' 'round
Some classmates ran to Canada
But a cowboy stands his ground

Raisin' his hand, swearin' an oath
His head gettin' buzzed really short
Johnny's new clothes were uniforms
Two months, he never left that fort

Livin’ in that open barracks
A six-four ape teachin' salute
Johnny learned hospital corners
Soldier ways began to take root

That boot camp training weren't so hard
He was used to gettin' yelled at
Mostly like when sortin' some pairs
So he easily laughed at that

Johnny knew where he was headed
Though he didn't fully grasp why
He was a typical, green teen
With no real thought that he could die

Johnny had lived his eighteen years
On a New Mexico, dry spread
Vietnam greeted this cowboy
With humidity and bloodshed

Ranch kids all see life come and go
So death itself was no stranger
But brutal, violent slaughters
Were a permanent life-changer

He survived when others did not
Fifty-eight thou never returned,
And those that did were mostly spurned

He was spit on and ugly-cursed
Once back on American soil
Which created confused distress
Bringing tears while his blood would boil

Johnny still feels survivor-guilt
Still hearing their screams in anguish
Why should he be here not them?
An answer he can’t distinguish

I enlisted for 'Nam too Pard
I was an oblivious kid
But I was never sent in-country
Felt guilty since I never did

Then I went east to see the wall
And cried at so many brothers lost
My guilt disappeared then, Johnny
Although you paid a higher cost

I hate you have PTSD
Think what lost brothers might'a done
Johnny, I signed a blank check too
For that war we left and never won

So come, Johnny, sit beside me
Or I'll come over there to you
Let me buy you an ice cold beer
We'll toast those lost we never knew

Let's get you welcomed home Johnny
We  were called and both gave our sum
And, yes, some brothers gave their all
Let's just trust God 'bout that outcome

by Rik Goodell
© 2024 All rights reserved

This David Graham painting reminds me that, despite our country's many mistakes, we've done more good than bad and we're still honorable. 

To see more of this Montana artist's work, visit his website:


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