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Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam War’

1.
Where have they gone
The young and the proud?

Will we say their names again?
Will we sing their praises on Sundays in church?
Will their photographs hang in Willies’ barbershop windows
Alongside the heroes of World War 2,
The Norman Rockwell prints
And his autographed photos of Ted Williams and Rocky Marciano?

Will there be a celebration of their sacrifices in the town square
The mayor making a speech and mounting a plaque?
The mothers and sisters and wives crying inconsolably?

Or will their fathers hide their grief in bottles of moonshine
The bitterness growing with every drop
Their mothers asking themselves in secrecy what they’ve done wrong
Sisters feeling unprotected without big brother
Little brothers lacking a role model, what chance do they have?
Will no one waltz in the street when their names are mentioned
Or will they merely turn their grief away?

Who will lead us into the future?
Who will install that first traffic light?
Their photos in the Sunday paper big smiles all around
Where will our smiles come from without our boys as heroes?

There will be no continuity here
A generation is lost
Our sons have been ripped from their future
Johnny will not come marching home again.

Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
Why have you left our lives?
Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
And what will become of us?

2.
Where have they gone
The young and proud?

Where is Gus?
He who could run like the wind
Down the field to victory on homecoming night

Where is Eddie with the cannon right arm?
He who threw the winning touchdown pass to Gus?

Where is Lawrence?
He who made his grandmother so proud
Her slave life stories were so vivid in his mind
The first one in the family to finish school

Where are Gunvald and Bengt?
The town’s only immigrant sons,
Those two new Sons of the Town who worked so much harder,
Just to fit in,

Where is Tom?
He who always drove too fast
Son of the local sheriff,
Racing in the streets on Saturday nights?

Will their parents mourn their loss?
Will we notice their absence?

Greg, he whose Diner has already closed down,
Crippled after his hip surgery failed, and now
Gus is not there to take his place
Irene, his wife, she who couldn’t deal with the loss
The towns first civilian casualty
Of a war so far away

The 5 and Dime store won’t last long either,
Mr. Nichols, he who is getting older by the day,
Never stands outside the shop door anymore, greeting everyone,
His health is failing and Eddie isn’t coming back to take over
It’s a matter of time now they say.

Pete he who can’t climb the trees anymore to trim them,
Says he’ll have to sell his orchards and land to pay his mortgage
Gunvald and Bengt will be trimming trees only in Pete’s memories

Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
Why have you left our lives,
Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
And what will become of us?

 

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Source: Where Have They Gone, poem 2

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Source: Where Have They Gone, poem 1

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Senator George McGovern died yesterday. His influence on my life is immeasurable. His campaign for president had a watershed effect on my view of the world, my view of myself, and my place in the world. It preceded an enormous period of self growth which formed the basis of every good thing that has happened to me since. His eloquence, his unwavering belief in diplomacy and peace are still inspirational to people of intellect everywhere in the world. I admire this man greatly for his perseverance, the steadfastness of his conviction and his untiring work for the betterment of us all.
I wrote about him and my life in my blog and would like to repost a link to that piece here and hope that you will read it and think about what you can do for world peace. thank you.
http://wp.me/p1J6mY-4

 

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With all the amazing changes going on in the world, I’m drawn to this wonderful but sad poem by one of my absolute poets. I’m dedicating this to the Arab Spring, to Palestine and to the Occupy Wall Street movements spreading across the U.S.

For Eli Jacobson,, by Kenneth Rexroth

 

December 1952

There are few of us now, soon
There will be none. We were comrades
Together, we believed we
Would see with our own eyes the new
World where man was no longer
Wolf to man, but men and women
Were all brothers and lovers
Together. We will not see it.
We will not see it, none of us.
It is farther off than we thought.
In our young days we believed
That as we grew old and fell
Out of rank, new recruits, young
And with the wisdom of youth,
Would take our places and they
Surely would grow old in the
Golden Age. They have not come.
They will not come. There are not
Many of us left. Once we
Marched in closed ranks, today each
Of us fights off the enemy,
A lonely isolated guerrilla.
All this has happened before,
Many times. It does not matter.
We were comrades together.
Life was good for us. It is
Good to be brave — nothing is
Better. Food tastes better. Wine
Is more brilliant. Girls are more
Beautiful. The sky is bluer
For the brave — for the brave and
Happy comrades and for the
Lonely brave retreating warriors.
You had a good life. Even all
Its sorrows and defeats and
Disillusionments were good,
Met with courage and a gay heart.
You are gone and we are that
Much more alone. We are one fewer,
Soon we shall be none. We know now
We have failed for a long time.
And we do not care. We few will
Remember as long as we can,
Our children may remember,
Some day the world will remember.
Then they will say, “They lived in
The days of the good comrades.
It must have been wonderful
To have been alive then, though it
Is very beautiful now.”
We will be remembered, all
Of us, always, by all men,
In the good days now so far away.
If the good days never come,
We will not know. We will not care.
Our lives were the best. We were the
Happiest men alive in our day

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Dateline Sarajevo 29/05-10 Beginning in the year of my birth and continuing throughout my youth, America was involved in what can best be described as a controversial war, perhaps the first truly “controversial” war in its history, Vietnam. The advent of television brought to moms and dads and the families back home the harsh reality of war right into their living rooms and dinner parties. Over the years, as the war dragged on and on, and the death toll continued to climb, the youth, pressed into compulsory service, began to question what they were dying for. This was the dilemma staring me directly in the face as I approached my 18th birthday. I was literally only one week away from being drafted into military service, or more likely forced into an illegal flight to either Canada or Sweden when the draft was finally stopped. America had lost the war, peace with honor was only a dream (or a lie depending on your perception) and the soldiers who did fight and survive came home to much less than a heroes welcome. Until today, this was as close as I had ever come to war. Now we move to Sarajevo, a beautiful, culturally diverse jewel in central Europe, and the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The city, formed as we know it by the Ottoman empire in 1450 but with origins dating as far back as the Neolithic Age, is flanked by the Dinaric Alps on both the North and South sides, and the Miljacka river which flows through it winding like a snake. The city lies in a deep valley, the Alps rising like beautiful lush green monoliths on either side. When you see it from the plane it’s wondrously beautiful. Lush greens accompanied by tile rooftops looking down on a tranquil oasis of cooperation and community. When you ask the residents about their city one of the first things they point out is the broad cultural diversity. Religious diversity is especially important to these people with adherents of Muslim, Catholic, Judaism and Orthodox faiths peacefully coexisting for centuries. The minarets rise up joyfully proclaiming the presence and devotion. On our first day here, after checking in, my wife, Inger and I left our hotel to begin to explore the city. We hear the chants wafting down in multiple directions, surrounding us and calling to all. The cab ride from the airport is very revealing. New buildings flank ancient ones as the city continues to grow. The diversity, that word pops up again and again, of the architecture is striking. For this observer, however, my eyes are drawn to something else, something moving, something echoing a painful past. Sarajevo is also a city torn apart and almost destroyed by a dreadful war. The damage to the buildings is still painfully visible, although you don’t see as many buildings lying in rubble as you would have 10 or 15 years ago, there remains still many buildings that reveal their scars from mortar fire or shrapnel from the mountains around them. You realize immediately that you can’t escape the war, not yet, not easily. After the breakup of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbian forces, which had aligned themselves with the Yugoslav Peoples Army which was made up of members of the army of the former Republic and very well armed, had begun a build up to capture part of Bosnia and combine it into Serbia, including Sarajevo. They fortified positions in the mountains on both sides and waited. In Sarajevo at this time there were peace demonstrations, which were quite large, and it was during one such demonstration that the siege began. Serbian militants, guards of a Serbian politician, opened fire on a peace demonstration from the top of the Holiday Inn, killing 3 and wounding 50. Thus began one of Europe’s darkest times. The Serbian forces had total control of most of the mountains on either side of the city traffic in and out was impossible. The residents were helpless and easy targets for artillery, mortars, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine-guns, multiple rocket launchers, rocket-launched aircraft bombs, and sniper rifles. The roads in and out were cut off and the airport was closed down. About 450,000 residents were helpless and cut off from the world. If they needed to shop food or go outside at all, they were a target for sniper fire from the hills. Their buildings, offices, hotels, churches, markets, homes, hospitals, schools were targets and most buildings were either damaged or destroyed. Electricity and water were cut off, for days or weeks on end, making even preparation of food or heating their house almost impossible. Most of the trees in the city were cut down for firewood. Parks, of which there were many here, were used for cemeteries, with fast services done at night so that the snipers didn’t see them and open fire. The main cemetery lies on a lovely hillside overlooking the Olympic Stadium, however it was in the Serb controlled hills. Access was, of course, impossible. Over the course of almost 4 years, the residents of Bosnia were subject to almost every abomination imaginable, ranging from ethnic cleansing to mass executions, rape and starvation. Residents in Sarajevo came very close to complete starvation, and their only chance for survival weighed in the balance on the success of UN airlifts from the Sarajevo airport that was opened in late June of 1992. On June 1, 1993, at least fifteen people were killed and 80 more were wounded as a result of a mortar attack during a soccer game. Red Cross trucks, which were given clearance to enter Sarajevo, were raided and destroyed, and maternity wards were hit killing mothers and newborns alike. On July 12, 1993, twelve people were killed while in line for water, and on February 5 of the following year mortar shells killed 68, and wounding 200 others in the Sarajevo market place. The ONLY way the city and its residents survived, quite literally was via a tunnel, some 800 meters long running from Bosnian controlled territory to the airport, which even though it was controlled by the UN was still under attack. The tunnel became known as the “tunnel of life” and indeed it was. The more I hear about life here during that time the more I admire the people for their bravery. They are strong people, who have been through something so horrible that I simply can not even begin to comprehend and yet they welcome strangers with a smile. Obviously I am deeply moved by what I have found here. I look out my window now, I see the minaret, hear the chanting, and see the lush green hills. About 2 minutes walk from here is a large cemetery filled with graves, directly outside my hotel window is a small cemetery sitting next to the mosque filled with graves, all of them from the war and I realize that land may have been a park or a garden or a place where children played. In this city almost all of the parks are now cemeteries filled with names of the 11,000 people who died, around 1,400 of them were children. One of the joys of life, for me is to run up into the hills, kick off my shoes and feel the grass on my feet, but here in the hills of Sarajevo that could be deadly as the hills are, to this day, filled with land mines and no one has any idea of how many. There is of course work going on to find them, but it’s painfully slow and dangerous. Obviously the citizens of Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have a very painful legacy. The Serbs who once lived within the city are now living outside it in a separate area “Republika Srbska” with their own police force, schools a separate nation almost and there is little social or personal contact between them and the rest of the Sarajevans, as our tour guide said on Monday as we drove through a part of their territory “ There is no contact, it would be too dangerous, no social contact and if one were to get out of the car and attempt it that would be very tense”. The wonderful diversity is almost gone in the aftermath. There are 5,000 euro forces (EU peacekeeping forces) here still and our guide expressed the hope that they remain indefinitely. The Dayton Agreement, which while it brought an end to the violence, is weak and there have been no further negotiations to ease the situation or bring any attempt at unity. This is the city which I find myself so drawn to. Is it because of the war or despite it? Perhaps I’ll never know, but I do know that I am taken by it, by the warmth, my wife and I have experienced almost the beginning, the friendliness of the people we met, by the beauty of the city itself. It is with some sense of sadness, that I start to pack my suitcase and head to Mostar tomorrow, eager for another new city, but very sad to say goodbye to Sarajevo. So it won’t be goodbye, it can’t be. It will be vidimo se, see you!

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