Vietnam Veterans Writing

Last week, I went to our storage space to find a couple of things. As is often the case on such trips, I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did find something I had forgotten was there. I found a book of short stories and the first seven chapters of a novel called Lessons Learned. The stories and the beginning of the novel date back almost twenty years. I began reading and quickly set up a Scrivener project file for Lessons Learned. I roughed out a cover idea and gave it to our partner, Adrienne Wall, and she came back with the cover on the left.

Here’s a passage from the second chapter:

Sometimes plans don’t go the way you expect them to. Eighteen months after Mr. Johnson, my high school principle, handed me my diploma on a makeshift stage, erected on the football field, Sergeant Ferguson handed me an M16, semi-automatic rifle, in a hastily erected tent, beside a taxiway at Ton Son Nut airbase, just outside Saigon, South Vietnam.

I pulled three consecutive twelve month tours in Vietnam. I had to reenlist to do it. At the time, I told myself I was doing it to earn money for school, and that was part of it. But it wasn’t the major part. I stayed in Vietnam for the lessons. You see, I learned more about life in the middle of that war than I had even suspected to that point in my life.

I hated a lot of it. And most of it scared me half to death. But there was another part of my time in Vietnam that was… Hell, I’m a writer and I don’t have words for it.

Once, a few years ago, while visiting the Vietnam Memorial, I saw a t-shirt on display at a vendor,s stand between the Lincoln Memorial and The Wall. On the front was written, If you weren’t there you wouldn’t understand.

I understood that, but if I had designed the t-shirt it would have read, if you weren’t there I can’t explain it to you. I would like to, but I don’t have the words. I guess that’s too much to put on a single t-shirt. Sometimes I think it’s too damn much to put on a man or woman.

I learned a lot in Vietnam, though I’m just now getting most of it. I believe that’s true for all of us who were there. We learned a lot of lessons. Some of them we would have been better off not knowing.

I’m leading off Chapter Three with a verse from DEROS: My Soul, a poem by Steve Mason. Here it is:

…at such times I know also
that each of us
who fought in Vietnam
was spiritually captured by it
and that each remains
a prisoner
of his own war.

Now, the point of this post is, I’ve been a member of Triberr for more than a year. If you aren’t familiar with Triberr, it’s a platform for bloggers, created by Dino Dugan and Dan Cisto to support bloggers through the promotion each other’s work. I’ve set up a couple of tribes – Writers and Readers and Writing to Live. Last night I searched all of the tribes under the category, writing, looking for one that was created for Vietnam Veterans who are writers. If there is one, I couldn’t find it. So, I created one because over 5,000,000 men and women served in Vietnam, and it created what I call a point of perspective, one that we cannot change. Now I believe it’s time for us to come together again to create another support base, like the ones that saved us in Vietnam. The beginning of that base could well be a platoon, or company, or battalion, or maybe even a division of Vietnam Veterans who are also writers and poets.

Using my amazing creative genius, I named it Vietnam Veterans Writing. If you are a member of Triberr, a writer, and a Vietnam Veteran, browse through the tribes, find it, and join up. If you are a Vietnam Veteran writer and you don’t know a damn thing about Triberr, but might be interested and would like to know more, email me at and I’ll tell you more.

I searched YouTube for a video of Steve Mason reading one of his amazing poems and couldn’t find one. And then, I found Yusef Komunyakaa, a Vietnam Vet, award winning poet, and a professor at New York University. As soon as I post this blog I’m going online to find more of his work. Here’s why.

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