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Memories of Vietnam by Bill Childers

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Helmet and Rifle

I was sitting on my helmet one day, beside my pack on the helicopter pad... waiting... waiting for the chopper which would transport the unit of my Marines with which I would ride to the drop-zone where we would join other Marines already waiting to begin the operation.  The operation, "Dewey Canyon" had been in the planning for several weeks.  The operation would last at least two months... if we were lucky.  The Chaplain (me) was always on about the second or third wave into an operation.  This was a time to relax, if such a thing was possible, but after awhile, you relaxed, slept if you could...not knowing exactly what waited ahead.  Some used their packs for a pillow, their helmet for a rifle-rest, always keeping one hand securely on their weapon - it could be, often was a "long-wait"- another hand on their pack which weighed about 55-60 pounds... their worldly possessions... for now.

Sitting on one’s helmet was uncomfortable after awhile.  There wasn’t much talk.  I wasn’t encouraged, for a lot of reasons.  Sometimes a Marine might drift over for a short chat, but too much wasn’t encouraged. One might drift over for a short word, but most had their head full of other thoughts. The Marines had habits of putting thoughts on their camouflaged helmet cover. There was a great variety of things said. One helmet lying somewhat by itself, the owner probably talking to a buddy, had the following message on it..."God, go with me to the fields of death!"

I didn’t think of it more than a short minute or so because the command came loud and clear, "Choppers coming...load ’em up"! I was too busy the next week or so to give much thought to the sentence, but I wrote it down, so I could recall it exactly as it was written. I never saw the helmet again, nor its owner. I never knew if the owner made it back or many didn’t. Here’s what came later when I had time to reflect on seeing the helmet with its message...

Bill Childers

"God, go with me to the fields of death"

The helmet lay without a wearer,
The rifle had no bearer,
Yet, the words were plain and clear...
A struggle, a prayer.

The fields lay out there waiting,
The man, here... a sentence stating.
The obvious plight of man’s fear...
A challenge... a dare!

The man, the helmet, a rifle,
The prayer, a fear to stifle...
"God, go with me to the field..."
To live... or, to yield.

Bill Childers
Vietnam 1968-69
Copyright : 2002

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My Spirit

I have a feeling that
When time is eternal for me
I will not have done
All that I could have done.
But, if this is so,
It will not be,
I think,
Because I did not try...
But, because,
Perhaps, I did not know how,
Because I could not find the way.

Bill Childers
Vietnam 1968-69
Copyright: 2002

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Face to Face

The following work is dedicated to the Marines of the Second Battalion, Ninth Marines.  Motto..."Hell in A Helmet"...

I felt the burden of time, heavy on my soul,
There seemed no way to cease the pain,
No friend was near, no way to take hold,
No way to find a path to ease the pain.

There was no space to move from where I stood,
One must lift the steps to void ’the wire’.
The mound of dead spiraled as cord-wood,
Crescendos beyond the scope of fire!

The choppers formed an endless chain,
A whirling cord of steel, fiber and glass;
Burdened-body-bags bearing an ode to pain,
Stood odious to history slipping past.

Warriors stood to face the line,
Swords of death spewing their load,
Missiles of pain dealt a silence of time,
As if saying ’time bears no other mode!’

I stood quietly, viewing, but not seeing
The thundering hordes of men-to-men.
I looked blindly, no "want" at being
A continuous witness to death and din!

Face-to-Face, my blindness grew dim,
The mind of an eye to deny a truth!
Face-to-face, my soul sought new-stem,
Lest my soul seek to defy the truth!

I cry mainly for those who stand the watch
Lest the horde ravage their battered place.
A busy moving time lessens the threat to botch
The sentinel standing o’er this shattered place!

I cry lest I find an escape for broken time...
I grow angry for my eyes catch no sight
Of a way that leads the weary to token time...
The tired warrior body to the rest of night.

I find no miracles to bring back the life,
None to end the struggle of trench and wire.
E’en should minds find closure to the strife...
’Twould find no escape of mud and mire!

And, so, I likewise find no ease of the mind;
I find no way to walk a far enough path.
Once seizing the fixture you’ve sought to find...
’Tis near impossible to heal the wrath!

And, as it’s often been said of pain and war,
As so many have fought to secure the peace...
Though pen and quill have sought the gain of war...
Though often sought...war has seldom peace!

Bill Childers
Vietnam 1968-69
Copyright: 2002

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