J. Holley Watts
WHERE CAN I FIND THEM?
We volunteered to go to war.
Took games to the troops to make them smile
and were all the world like the girl next door
with a touch of home for a little while.
To base camps, hospitals and LZ’s
we’d float, we’d fly, we’d drive
and hoped, somehow, to remember them
would keep each one alive.
War showed us no such kindness
so to honor them instead
we carved their names in granite walls
to be remembered, touched and read.
But those lists of names are useless
when it’s SKEETER, DUTCH or BRO
FOUR EYES, GRAMPS or GREASER
whose real names we didn’t know.
Where can I find them on The Wall?
To match a name with the face we knew,
to find each one who gave their all
like SKI, POPS, CORKY, KID or STU.
I played cribbage with THE COWBOY
and wrote letters home for BUZZ
but I can’t tell you who they were.
I just know that each one was.
They introduced themselves to us as
STONEY, BIG MIKE, ACE and BEAR,
That’s how we see and hear them still
– just can’t find them anywhere.
Some rearranged their given names
or shortened them instead,
like SMITTY, FOX and BUD,
YANK, MACK, LT and RED.
They talked about their favorite things;
CHIP’s girl, SLY’s dog, BUCK’s car.
If we had a roll call now
I couldn’t tell you who they are.
They went by MOS and size
Like GUNNY, DOC and TOO TALL PAUL.
I’d bridge that gap and ease my pain
if there were nicknames on The Wall.
It’s easy to remember
RUSTY, GABBY, SWEDE or JER.
They’re locked inside my memory
and not going anywhere…
But I can’t reach out and touch their names
that I know are on The Wall.
You see, I never got to say goodbye, or
Welcome Home – that, most of all.
©Copyright 2007 by J. Holley Watts
American Red Cross – SRAO Vietnam
September 1966 – September 1967 – Da Nang, Chu Lai, An Khe, Cu Chi
Author’s Note: I wrote/read this poem for the closing ceremony of “The Wall That Heals,” a half-sized replica (of the actual Wall) that travels around the country and visited Harrisonburg in early April. We had over 11,000 visitors in only 4 days.