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The Veteran

  • (Allan Taylor)

    When you sing do you sing for the man who's broken
    Do you sing for the man who stands alone
    Do you sing for the endless list of names
    Etched in marble stone

    I saw the echo of a thousand wars in the face of the man
    As he looked out over the watching crowd searching for a friend
    Sometimes he would see a face but then each face looks the same
    Like looking into a mirror and reading a different name

    He learnt his lesson early, a confirmation under fire
    Now his eyes stare into the distance like a prisoner behind the wire
    We are lucky in our fortune, we can turn the other way
    But the veteran fights again at night and struggles through the day

    He came back an addict, he came back a drunk
    He came back a cripple, or pieces in a trunk
    He came back a hero to a waving flag parade
    And he was left with nothing when the glory began to fade

    So what do you say to the veteran who can't take it any more
    You guard your words and hold it back and talk of anything but the war
    Just reach out over the distance and let him know you're there
    And hope he hasn't gone too far, or forgotten how to care

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  •  [1979:] Es ist wenig bekannt, daß ein hoher Prozentsatz von [Vietnam-Veteranen] erst süchtig wurde, nachdem sie im Krankenhaus behandelt wurden. (Notes Iain MacKintosh, 'Straight to the Point')

  •  [1991:] On Kennedy and the early development of the Vietnam War see Thomas C. Reeves, 'A Question of Character', 287ff

  •  [1997:] In the early '70s I lived in America for two years. [...] One of my trips took me to Portsmouth, Virginia for a week's gig at a club called The Red Mule. [...] Apparently the club was frequently burglarised [...] and, fearing a robbery when he was actually there, the organiser, Lenny carried a huge revolver, something like a forty-five Magnum. However, it was never loaded. As Lenny said, "I don't want to hurt anyone, I just want to scare them." Lenny was a veteran of the Vietnam war, and still wore his army field jacket. He was long-haired and moustachioed (as most of us were in those days) and "stoned" (under the influence of drugs) a lot of the time. He also was badly crippled on the right side of his body and walked with a pronounced limp. He could not raise his arm very high, so when he tried to put a cigarette to his mouth, he would have to tilt his body down to actually smoke it. As he smoked most of the time, either a cigarette or a "joint" (a cigarette made of the drug Marijuana), he looked a little like a pigeon, ducking up and down as he walked.

    I liked Lenny immediately, and we spent every evening after the gig sitting around and talking. [...] The subject of Vietnam came up frequently, not so much what happened while he was there but more about what he had to deal with when he came home. He was just one of many who went to Vietnam either not knowing why or with the best of intentions only to realise it was one big mistake. He then came home to be branded a baby killer, a fascist, a murderer and so on. For many veterans the experiences were so extreme they lived them night after night and received very little understanding from the people they came home to. Lenny was one such, and seemingly fazed it away with drink and drugs.

    Many years later, I went to Washington D.C. and saw the memorial to those who had been killed in Vietnam. The black stone is highly polished and when you search for a name you see your own reflection, but it's not your name that is written. When you look around you see frozen faces, people holding their emotions in check, looking for a familiar face and almost hoping against hope to see a friend. As I stood there and took in the images I recalled what Lenny had talked about, and soon after I wrote the song. (Taylor, Songs 111)

  •  [1998:] [A] phalanx of roaring Harley-Davidsons converged on New York [on 11 Nov], their leather-clad riders all tattoos, tassles and long hair. [...] The bikers' flags showed a forlorn prisoner, head hung behind barbed wire, and the letters POW-MIA - 'Prisoner of War / Missing in Action'. These are the boys of a movement that simply will not go away. They are never mentioned in American media coverage of Veterans' Day but they make it clearer, with each passing commemoration, how little America has reckoned with its miserable war in South East Asia. Time only sharpens the trauma of Vietnam.

    These men believe that thousands of GIs remain alive and enslaved in that country, abandoned to rot by cynical politicians. They have a stall at the entrance to the most moving monument in the history of warfare - the Vietnam Memorial in Washington - called 'The Last Firebase: Standing Vigil Until The Last Man Comes Home'. The POW-MIA movement has outlived the Rambo cult and is one of the most persistent thorns in the American establishment's side.

    These men went from the poor prairies and ghettos of America, aged 18, expecting to see branches of McDonald's everywhere, and found themselves plunged into a senseless jungle war - which they lost. They returned from their nightmare in Vietnam to a society that reviled them - or did not want to know them. Their war had been overwhelmed by the opposition of a public to whom it was unacceptable. They were left to become men like [...] the man who wrote the letter taped to the Vietnam Wall last weekend: 'Dear Buddy, It took me 30 years, but I finally found your mother and sister and I told them how you died and how it wasn't like they said...Why did God spare me? See you on the other side, Buddy. Till then, love from the one who got left behind.' [...] Their trauma unheard and unheeded for years, these men watched the spectacle of 'Hanoi Jane' Fonda marrying zillionaire Ted Turner - and of a 'draft dodger' [Bill Clinton] entering the White House. (Ed Vulliamy, Observer, 15 Nov)

  •  [1999:] Last week three shots killed two people [...] making orphans of two children and cutting to the bitter core of the country. Nancy Richards-Akers, the author of popular romance novels, was a suburban ladies' cult-idol who wanted her life to be like that of her heroines: wrapped in the mists of soft-focus melodrama [...]. Jeremy Akers wanted his life to be like his heroes too. [...] Akers had been a marine in Vietnam and was wounded and decorated. But his sacrifice never matched the sacrifice by which he became obsessed, of the fallen whose names are cut into the awesome granite wall of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. That's why [...] he went to the memorial to sit and stare at the names of the dead so often. Last week [...] Akers fired into the back of his wife's head as she sat in her Jeep, while the children watched. [...] Ninety minutes later, the crowds at the Vietnam memorial were jolted by the third, sudden shot. Akers had put the barrel of his shotgun into his mouth. As two park rangers approached, he pulled the trigger. [...]

    The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial is a haunting place. The names of the dead are revered by those who came home - despised by the peaceniks, and losers in the eyes of their own military. Survivors leave letters and gifts for the dead. The wall gets higher as you descend below ground. At the bottom you become suffocated by names; it feels hard to breathe. Akers [...] was always there. [...] After the war he trained as a lawyer, fighting tirelessly against toxic waste and oil spills. He hated 'liberals' and loved hunting, nature and the wild. His friends were surprised when he married. He'd been a 'James Bond, woman after woman type' until then, said [a friend]. He loved his kids, but the marriage soured, and Nancy moved [out,] took a lover, and Akers didn't like that. She spent time with her lover and the children, and Akers didn't like that either. She researched the occult for her new book, and Akers didn't like that at all. He exchanged greetings with a neighbour just before he killed his wife. Within two hours, Nancy's career as a romance novelist was over and Jeremy was where he had always wanted to be, with his heroes on the wall. (Ed Vulliamy, Observer, 20 Jun)

  • http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=12633#101611

  • The Wall

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