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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.