Try to imagine if you can,
awaking before the sky gets light;
and then thanking whatever it is you find holy,
for just surviving another night.
Then you walk out maybe thirty feet,
turn your back and drop your pants;
while holding your weapon, you answer nature’s call,
and watch for the enemy, scorpions, snakes, and ants.
Breakfast is jelly on crackers,
or some kind of meat from a small green can;
half the time it is nothing at all,
life’s not easy as an infantryman.
You disarm your trip flares and claymore mines,
and pack them away in your rucksack;
and when the order is given to “saddle up”,
you load it all onto your back.
You sit down and put your arms through the straps,
and struggle to get to your feet;
your speed and agility are compromised,
already you feel the heat.
Being the pointman means that you’ll walk first,
you check your compass for your route;
the line you’ll follow is called an azimuth,
you’re given the order to “move out”.
You try to ignore the weight on your back,
and the insects buzzing your head;
you look intently for signs of the enemy,
and shake off this feeling of dread.
But you know they could be anywhere,
concealed in bunkers, or behind the trees;
and while you think of that, you watch for wires,
death lurks also below your knees.
Booby traps are a constant threat,
there are many different kinds;
each one designed to either kill, or maim,
they are always on your mind.
One feared most is the “bouncing betty”,
it’s buried just under the dirt;
when stepped on, a charge hurls it upward,
it explodes at the tail of your shirt.
Or sometimes they’ll put a grenade in a can,
tied to a wire stretched across the trail;
your foot hits the wire, pulls it out of the can,
and blows you all to hell.
Then you hear a low sound from your backup man,
hold up, kneel down, take five;
it’s been two hours, so far so good,
everyone is still alive.
You study the terrain in front of you,
then glance at your compass again;
they could lie in ambush up ahead,
or be following from where you’ve been.
The order comes to “move it out”,
with great effort, you get to your feet;
it’s like the Empire State Building’s strapped on your back,
you sweat profusely from the heat.
Sometimes you feel like you can’t go on,
you just want out of there;
nothing but survival matters anymore,
you live like animals, and you don’t care.
Around midday, you stop for chow,
but before anyone can eat;
a patrol goes out and circles your position,
your clothes are drenched from the heat.
You drop your rucksack to the ground,
it weighs close to a hundred pounds;
you sit down and lean back against it,
while subconsciously listening for sounds.
Then you reach in for one of those little green cans,
that’s your breakfast, lunch, and dinner;
what you grabbed is cold ham and lima beans,
Jesus, there’s a winner.
You don’t eat enough to really get full,
what you carry must last three to five days;
you can’t drink enough to quench your thirst,
the sun bakes you with its merciless rays.
Then once again you hear “saddle up”,
you labor to get to your feet;
even if you don’t find the enemy today,
out here you can die from the heat.
You move as silently as you can,
among your surroundings, you try to blend in;
you have to distinguish man made sounds,
from animals, insects, and wind.
You drop down when you hear movement ahead,
your weapon comes up as you kneel;
whatever it is, it’s coming straight at you,
you fight back the terror that you feel.
You assume a defensive position,
your hand wraps around a grenade;
the machine gunner’s now beside you,
silently, you pray.
It sounds like you’re going to be overrun,
by a large force of the enemy;
then you realize that what you’re hearing,
is coming from up in the trees.
You can’t believe what you’re seeing,
there are monkeys everywhere;
jumping up and down on the limbs,
their shrill cries fill the air.
Their hostility is directed at recon,
they bombard you with branches and sticks;
they’re telling the enemy where you are,
you have to get out of here quick.
Your position has just been compromised,
and you know what you must do;
in order to reach the objective,
you’ll go around, instead of through.
And now the words you don’t want to hear,
you can see on your squad leaders face;
you’re physically exhausted, and emotionally drained,
and they tell you to “pick up the pace”.
Once again you check your weapon,
that’s second nature out here;
two things help keep you alive in the bush,
your weapon, and your fear.
And you push through the vegetation,
your hands are cut from the elephant grass;
your equipment snags on the wait-a-minute vines,
pick up the pace your ass.
It can sometimes take hours to move a hundred yards,
sometimes it’s not wise to move fast;
you made two miles in seven hours,
you’ve reached the objective at last.
There’s nothing here but jungle,
same as last night, and the night before that;
other than a point on a piece of a map,
you have no idea where you’re at.
But wherever it is, it’s where you are,
and it’s where you’ll make your bed;
it’s just a poncho laid on the ground,
but it’s where you’ll lay your head.
A patrol goes out now and circles around,
you wait till they come back in;
then you unpack your trip flares, and claymore mines,
and set out a defensive perimeter again.
And when that’s done, your forward observer,
calls in artillery rounds;
and one hundred meters from your position,
they explode with a deafening sound.
Now tonight, if you’re attacked,
there are howitzers aimed your way;
since you didn’t fire a shot, and everyone’s alive,
you’ve had a pretty good day.
You’re so hungry even c-rations sound good,
you stick pork slices with a knife,
you light c-4 explosive, and cook them,
and think to yourself, “this is the life”.
You think about writing a letter home,
but you don’t have much to say;
you’re pretty sure what month it is,
but have no idea what day.
The pork slice sizzles on the end of the knife,
the plastic explosive burns hot;
it takes a blasting cap to set it off,
it’s the only smokeless fire you’ve got.
After you eat you check your weapon again,
you lay down with it by your side;
and as night falls on the jungle,
you hope you’ve picked a good place to hide.
You’re awakened a couple hours later,
to stand your watch on guard;
it’s very easy to wake you up,
it’s staying awake that’s hard.
You sit alone in the darkness,
and allow your thoughts to roam;
at nineteen you walk point for recon,
twelve thousand miles from home.
You think of your friends and your family,
and wonder how they’ve been;
will you survive a year out here,
will you ever see them again.
Your watch is over, you wake the next man,
and crawl back to your bed;
you lay there with the hum of mosquitos,
serenading your head.
You close your eyes and hear a distant rumble,
it’s the thunder of planes dropping bombs;
| and sleep overtakes the weary warrior,
in the jungle of South Vietnam.