War Poems by US Vietnam Veteran,
Curt Bennett

Curt Bennett, US pilot, 1968

Curt Bennett two days before leaving Vietnam

Curtiss D Bennett, 2012

War Poetry by Curtis D Bennett


Curtis D Bennett is an outstanding, modern war poet. He speaks not only on his own war experience  (as an American pilot who flew 201 missions in Vietnam and as a marine on the ground in Vietnam) but on previous, recent and current wars. Some poems develop into essays on war. He writes from experience and deep reflection. 

He has written six remarkable books of poetry. We are privileged to be able to present some of his poems on this website.
Some of Curtis D Bennett's poems about his war experience will be found on the Vietnam War Page in due course. 

 

"I was a part of the war in Vietnam,
I went as an eager curious young man
And came back home, jaded and weary
For I learned more that one year
Than most will ever learn in a lifetime.
I saw reality, and it was ugly,
I experienced truth, and it was bitter."
Curtis D Bennett  - in "To a College Class".


War Poems on this page

Harbingers

(Thoughts inspired by the D-Day Veterans who returned to the beaches 60 years after their audacious landing.)

War Trauma

(How war destroys human sensitivities, morality)

The Wake Up

(The normal atrocities of war.)

Rest in Peace 

(Reasons given for wars.)


To a College Class

(The innocence of soldiers. They return lost and forgotten.)


The Becoming of a Man

(War changes men for ever.)


Remember Me 

(Soldiers lives ruined by war.)


Keeping the Distance

(Graphic bloody details of war.)


Testimony

(Curt reflects on his Vietnam experience.)


Scars

(Soldiers as objects of pity.)


Black and White

(War as news, as history.)


History of War

(A catalogue of US wars.)

 

D-Day Landing, Normandy, France, 1944

Harbingers is by a man who knows war, Vietnam veteran, Curtis D. Bennett. It is a reflection on the return of veterans of the audacious D-Day landings in 1944 to the scene of the action.  

The poem was written in 2004 and has to be understood in that context. It was inspired by the events and ceremonies that year to mark the 60th anniversary of the D Day Landings in Northern France but it is clear that Curt had, at the forefront of his mind, thoughts of the ongoing war against Iraq.  

Politicians celebrating this D-Day invasion may have used it to imply merit for for war in general but especially their illegal, disastrous, unjustified invasion of Iraq.  Curt's own reflection on his war experience may have led him to overlook the necessity and historic importance of the D-Day invasion so this is a highly personal response, not to the D-Day Landings themselves but to the situation of veterans returning to the scenes of their war experience.  

Curt is not concerned in this poem with the importance, heroism and justification for this biggest invasion in history.


Harbingers
 
(From Normandy)

Frail, old men with weathered hands stand,  
Alone, lost on the wide sandy beaches, 
Each turning back his rusty mind clock  
Piercing the veil of memories 
When they were young, anxious and terrified, 
Boy-soldiers in battle fighting for their lives,  
Experiencing the gamut of fear and death 
Watching friends died horribly, 
Scarring their young minds forever.

Blue beaches murmur waves 
Splashing old, rusted war remnants. 
A sea bird flaps wet beaches 
Where the sea swells and crashes gently on wet sand, 
Retreating back erasing all footprints. 
The men stare the distance, 
At blurred memories through tears. 
Trickling down their cheeks dripping softly, 
To merge with the sea like before. 

They came to say good-bye to their friends, 
To a confused past which has no answers. 
The graveyard crosses watch in stony silence,  
Stoically from tree shadows on soft meadows, 
In eternal military formation fronted by small, flags, 
Wind-shivering in the hush of silence.  
Marching the stillness in quiet precision 
Protecting the young soldiers buried there, 
Frozen in time and death 
The old veterans stand awkward, unsure with the dead. 
Experiencing those familiar, dreaded, sick feelings 
Of remorse, regret, blame, and fault for what happened 
To their generation who gave so much for their country. 


They have gathered one final time  
To share history, blame and guilt for all eternity 
Banding together as one, they embrace the moment, 
Experiencing once more, this terrible place of memories. 

And the same salt sea air, still blows up from the beach  
Once inhaled in panic by all the young fighting men  
Mired in the beach mud conducting the senseless slaughter of children,  
Trapped forever in the obscenity and vulgarity of war, 
The pain returns for a moment, overwhelming them, 
It hangs suspended, as real as yesterday, then drifts away and mellows away. 


Now time, history, and denial blessedly blur the horror and inhumanity 
Of what they did; of what was done to them. 

The War President from America 
Mounts the podiums to prattle the virtues of war, 
Attempting to rewrite history, to deny war's reality,  
He exploits the moment for selfish means,  
To justify his war as a noble cause, ignoring its brutality, 
Thoughtlessly attempting to validate, substantiate, and authenticate, 

War's vicious crimes against civilization 
Turning the senseless slaughter of innocents 
Into a righteous cause, to be proud of and condone.. 
Turning war into a sound-bite of empty words 
Of praise, blessing, glory, and accomplishment. 
Something to be proud of, to revel in, 
To relish with sacred, biblical rhetoric 
From a shallow, self-centered political opportunist.  
Whose meanings and oratory become quickly lost, 
His words floating away with the wind, out of relevance, out of touch 
Out of context, drifting, beyond the restive crowds. 
To fall useless and disappear, in the cold, impassionate mud. 
Falling deaf on the ears of the dead warriors 
The ultimate, wasted sacrifice, from another generation.

It is at this moment, the old veterans  
Eyes mist up, overflow, and tears flow shamelessly 

As they at last comprehend all their sacrifice, all their pain, 
All their sorrow, all their suffering, all the death, 
Did not change or alter a thing, was not a lesson learned 
Nor an experience not to be repeated..  
Realizing their friend's painful, brutal, ultimate sacrifice 
Was only a necessary evil of Mankind's political process 
Which has never changed, and never will,  
For each generation brings anew to the world 
Its own self-styled madness of universal death, tragedy and suffering, 
In wars to be fought by the young, bright-eyed children of the world  
Unknowingly raised as sacrificial lambs of slaughter, 
To be killed and gone forever, for nothing.  
That is why, all Veterans cry. 

In this hallowed place of the dead 
The lonely graves of war's youthful victims 
Who died for a thought,  
an idea, for a cause 
Promulgated by selfish, insane men in power 
These war graves and cemeteries are Harbingers  
Of the eternal, mindless death cycle of war.  
Young men killed by politicians' words and mindless acts, 
Their promise and existence forever ended too soon. 
Now, forever sleep beneath the green muffled grass 
Sharing the earth with the youth and victims of past wars, 
Too numerous to count, too numbing to contemplate, 
The dead, as powerless and impotent as the now living  
To change or alter, or detour the inexorable course of madmen, 
They patiently wait for the next generation to join them.

Curtis D. Bennett

2004

War Trauma


War drags men to the very edge
Where they shut completely down
All emotion, all caring, all feeling,
Just to survive the experience.
Impervious to pain, to suffering, to death,
They blankly assimilate war’s horrors
Then continue as wooden, human shells
Who have experienced, too much death,
Who have seen, too much destruction.
Old men in young boys' bodies
Who will never be quite the same.
For they can never, ever,
Come all the way back. Some don’t even try.
Others topple over the edge, 
To remain lost there…forever.


Curtis D Bennett

The Wake Up


As the endless war in Afghanistan drags on and on,
Slowly emerging are tales of war atrocities by Americans,
By men in combat whose job is to kill other human beings,
And when they do, they tend to celebrate being alive,
Celebrate the enemy they have just killed as now dead.
The Indians of America would take “scalps,”
In Vietnam, ears of the dead were cut off,
Stored in plastic bags, like curled, dried, brown potato chips.
Reminder souvenirs of America’s triumph; of our “winning!”

In Afghanistan other photos emerged of American snipers
Pissing on the bodies of the dead enemy of Al Qaeda,
Others posing with enemy dead beneath German SS flags,
The latest photos show Americans holding up body-parts
Of dead the newly dead Afghanistan suicide bombers,
Who were trying to kill them and dying in their effort.
And who can forget the American Sergeant Robert Bales
On his 4th tour of combat, despite suffering head wounds,
Who mercilessly went out in the middle of the night,
To gun down 17 Afghanistan women and children,
In the dead of night...as they slept....

Afghanistan is a guerrilla war; a civil war; and a religious war,
To Americans, Afghans are “towel-heads,”
Any one of them could easily be a suicide bomber, a “martyr,”
Whose lives are meaningless; inconsequential; of no value,
So indiscriminate killing of the “enemy,” becomes the norm,
An acceptable reaction to perceived dangers; a survival tool.

As long as American troops are forced into multiple tours, 
Multiple atrocities will continue...unabated,
For they are also put into “survival” mode, which has no rules;
Which has no boundaries; no “codes of conduct.”
For Afghanistan is an “unconventional war,”
Things like the “Geneva Convention,” are merely concepts
Of another time and another place and of another era.
Which are given lip service by the Military Leaders,
But on the ground, these go out the window; are disregarded.
Just as in most wars, today are wars that Generals,
Ranking Officers and Commanders in Chief, Never Fight In!
Those who fight return from war weary, worn out, empty, 
Tired, and drained from an endless year of being on the edge. 
This takes its toll, as every minute of every day one is guarded;
Suspicious, tense, walking a very fine line, a balancing act,
Knowing you can easily die at any time, at any place,
And never, even, see it coming!


One comes back from war fearful of the night, of dark,
For the dark represents the “unknown,” the unseen,
As “unknowns” are dangerous; unknowns will kill you.
One is on the precipice; cautious, suspicious of everything,
Bringing home the costly survival skills they learned
In combat, skills, skills, which kept them alive.
Yet, sudden noises startle; one steers away from crowds,
Doesn’t want anyone too close or near them,
For they trust nobody; are very leery of strangers,
They have learned the hard way, “Not to believe Nothin!’’

One is never quite the same after a year at war...
One returns from war...isolated and totally alone.
In war, one loses their innocence, their beliefs,
The National myths and traditions, which sent them to war,
Have proved false and misleading, for war has no glory,
The people they were sent to help are trying to kill them, 
And do, as suddenly friends and buddies die indiscriminately;
They are there one moment, the next, they are chunks of meat
Bloody and scattered across the earth in pieces...forever dead!
It is an event no one can train for; no one can prepare for,
As deep inside you realize it is luck; it may just as well been you
Who got caught, chewed up and spit out dead...forever dead,

You would have been the one who died for what, and why?
And therein is the problem, the crisis, the predicament.
Something nobody seems to understand or can comprehend
As to why there are such problems for returning veterans,
Why they have changed their mindset; have become strangers,
Are so hard and difficult to deal with, have changed drastically,
Are no longer who they used to be; whom they will never be! 
Can never again be the person they were...it is impossible.
For those who initially go to war have been conditioned; 
Carefully taught and embedded in their imagination,
Regarding the patriotic glory of war, the flags waving,
Marching bands, national anthems, patriotic ceremonies,
Celebrations with fireworks and football game "fly-overs" 
Ingrained in the culture as a vital part of your great country,
You were “Fighting for Freedom; for Democracy; for Liberty!”
In a noble cause to protect the homeland; your patriotic duty!


All the things our songs sing about...are forever gone.
They are reduced down to a dead, bloody friend,
Lying so still, so motionless, sprawled awkwardly,
On the foreign soil in a land so far away from his home,
Who’s sightless eyes stare unblinking into its own eternity.
Whose sad death was not heroic; not patriotic, not glorious
Rather a brutal snapshot of the horrors of war and dying
And your predominant feeling is strangely one of gladness,
A feeling of sick, jumbled, overwhelming relief
It was he, not you, who was killed and lying alone in the gore.
And for that, you will forever deal with the guilt of being alive!

All who go to war return back home changed,
Come back different; will never be the same.
For they cannot be the same, nor will they ever return,
To those wistful perfect days of youth and imagination;
Those dreamy days in an ideal world which never was,
Except in one’s desperate imagination and fanciful dreams.
Dreams, which kept one going, to get through one more day,
Which helped them make it through, just one more night!

One cannot change the past; one can only acknowledge it,
Then move on and try to leave it behind, it cannot be changed,
It cannot be different; be ignored nor disregarded,
It can only be somehow put into perspective,
And one day, it will be accepted as having happened,
Knowing that it changed you, but you survived war;
You finally “Wake Up” from the worst hell in the world,
And slowly return once more back to the living, to safety,
To a new world, which is yours to do with 
As you may, and... as you choose!


Curtis D Bennett


 


Rest In Peace


On a long, hot summer’s somnolent afternoon,
The towering, Kansas clouds drift soft shadows
Across golden fields of wheat below,
Bending slightly with the southern breeze.
A small graveyard sits on the slight hill
Overlooking the fields and valley below,
Watching the Kansas River, hidden in the trees,
Sparkle occasionally in the afternoon sun.

A single, dirt road leads off the main highway,
And climbs through the burial plots.
Upwards towards the high fence at the end,
Then curves around and circles the gravestones,
Of various sizes, shapes and colors, marking the dead.
It is quiet and peaceful, here, where sleep the dead,
Just the murmur of the constant, shuffling winds,
The faraway sound of a coal train clacking tracks 
Echoes along the distant horizon.

There is one grey, flat stone, somewhat apart,
Which has been unattended for years,
As tall grasses surround it, the chiseled name
Fading with the aging of the stone by weather.
It is a veteran’s grave of the war in Vietnam,
Where he violently was wounded and killed in 1968,
Then returned to Kansas to sleep his endless dream.

There is a wooden stick in the ground beside the stone,
Which once held a small American flag.
The flag, this man went to war for,
This flag, this man went half way around the world for,
The flag, this man fought for in a foreign land,
The flag this man died defending,
Because it was his patriotic duty. 
The flag, his family was given at the gravesite,
To honor his death, his ultimate sacrifice. 
On behalf, of a “grateful” nation.

The winds and the weather have taken their toll,
The plastic red, white, and blue colors of the flag,
Has systematically been dismantled by the elements.
Now, there is only a weathered, round stick with tatters
Still standing proud in the earth by the grave,
As a reminder of who this man was…a veteran.

Whatever happened to his family, who once loved him?
To his parents, who raised him to be a good citizen?
To his brothers and sisters, who ran and played with him?
Where is his wife now, his children, his relatives?
Or the country he died for? All no longer seem to care.
For once, a man dies in combat, of what use is he?
What use is he now to anyone, or anything? 
Or does it even matter anymore?

An American tradition is honoring our military dead,
Those who gave their lives in battle
On behalf of their country who asked them
To defend and fight for it; to die for it.
In a war that seemed at one time necessary,
A war against another nation and its citizenry, 
A war to kill and destroy “enemy” human beings,
Who also went to war for their country,
For the same reasons as we did.
The question remains, was it worth the cost?
Is it worth young people dying for today?
And ten, twenty years from now, what is the difference, if any?

Or perhaps it is because we Americans love war,
It seems we have been in a constant state of war
Since we fought for our own independence.
We have fought the British Empire,
We have fought the French and Indians, 
The war of 1812, the Barbary War,
We created a war of genocide on Indian tribes,
As we took away their land and their ancient hunting grounds,
Because we said it was our “right,” and God approved it,
It was entitled “Manifest Destiny,” or so we proclaimed.

We fought the Mexican-American War, 
Then we fought each other in a “Civil” war,
Then came more Indian Wars, the Apaches, Blackfoot,
The Sioux, all the Indian tribes, then we fought the Chinese, 
Then the Spanish, then the Germans in WW I,
Then again in WW II, this time including the Italians
Then we finally nuked Japan to put an end to that war now!

Then the Cold Wars with Russia, Communism and China.


After that, wars became known as “conflicts,”
Sounded a little better, like a disagreement with relatives,
The Korean “conflict,” the Vietnam “Conflict.”
But that word didn’t work, so they became “Operations.”
Like ‘Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield.”
The war in Afghanistan is “Operation Enduring Freedom.”
For Iraq, we now call it “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
And what do all of these Wars, Conflicts and Operations,
Have in common with each other? What is the base line? 
Easy, Americans die in them; killed in the name of America,
No matter how we would like to disguise them
It comes down to people with weapons killing the other,
You cannot have war without casualties; without dead people.

And all of these “Veterans,” memories will fade with time,
Each generation will become more distant from the dead,
Then sadly, in a few short years, will not be remembered,
Will not be honored, will not be recognized for their service.
But time will heal those wounds, cover up the memories,
Until all veterans’ graves will all lie lonely,
As forgotten in an unknown cemetery,
Their stones unattended; their locations forgotten with time,

Until no one knows, and nobody even cares who they were,
They have become a fading, forgotten name on a tombstone,
By an old, stick in the ground, whose flag is long gone
As is the memory of the man, the son, the soldier...
The one who is now, but a fading memory to all;
The one who selflessly gave his only life, for his country.


Curtis D Bennett

 


 

 

To a College Class


I come today to speak to you
About the past and of the future.
To talk to you of war and of peace.
Once I was like you
Sitting in a classroom
Pondering unanswerable questions
With youthful confidence and strength,
My belief based on innocence,
My trust based on inexperience,
And truth was to seek out.

My generation has come and gone
To be replaced by yours.
Once a child of the 60’s
I now stand here a man of the 80’s,
Yet I can still remember
What it was like to be young,
How it felt to know tomorrow
Would always be a better day.
And all the older adults; the old farts
Were to be simply tolerated,
Friendly, but harmless,
They were just...there.

I was a part of the war in Vietnam,
I went as an eager curious young man
And came back home, jaded and weary
For I learned more that one year
Than most will ever learn in a lifetime.
I saw reality, and it was ugly,
I experienced truth, and it was bitter.


In my tour, all life’s fairytales
Exploded in that myth-shattering year
And I have never, been quite the same.

Today, the war in Vietnam 
Is condensed into a few chapters
To be lightly discussed 
In the History and Political Science books.
They recount the battles fought, 
Of victories won; of campaigns lost,
Of dollars spent and divisive politics,
Of avoidable mistakes and misjudgements
Of indecisive, groping, failing White Houses;
Of angry, massive demonstrations and riots in the streets.

The world of Academia sometimes turns sterile,
And sometimes, conveniently leaves out the human element;
Forgets and omits, the personal tragedy.
Overlooks pain, suffering, and death.
Does not acknowledge, the human condition.
They simply reduce the Vietnam War, and other wars
Into just another short, inconsequential chapter of America,
A sordid, bitter, embarrassing experience; best forgotten.

Some books even attempt to rewrite history,
Turning Vietnam, into a noble, righteous cause.
History shows it was not the Politicians who fought that war,
It was not the Congressmen’s children who died in the mud,
Nor the sons of the rich and wealthy subjected to misery;
Nor was it the World War Two veterans or the war hawks,
Who were sent across a vast ocean, to a heretofore, unknown country
Where they would kill; where they would be killed,
For a reason no one today can recall, exactly why....

It was the common, ordinary children of America,
The kid next door, down the block, around the corner,
The ones you went to school with, went to church with.
They were the ones who fought and died in Vietnam,
It was the nineteen-year-old frightened, scared kid
Whose blood soaked into the red mud.
He was the acceptable casualty,
The expendable youth, the body count.
He, this country could afford, to lose. 

These children had hopes and dreams,
They did not want to die in a faraway land!
They had futures, possibilities, all taken away.
They had their youth and health.
While others evaded, avoided, or fled,
These were drafted and sent to war.
While the privileged sons of the rich 
The elite, those of the higher class got degrees,
Got married, got into business, got deferments,
Joined the National Guard or Reserves,
While their unfortunates, poorer “brothers”
Fought and bled and died horribly, far away.

There is another story of Vietnam
Which you can read; experience personally
In your quest for truth and reality.
You will see it in the VA hospitals,
You will feel it in Military cemeteries,
You will read it on Washington’s Black Wall.
And in these places is where you will find
The sombre, tragic, sober realities of war.


While the survivors of that terrible experience
Returned home, searching to regain their lost humanity.

For in war, men lose their souls!
For what they do against their fellow man
Has no definition, no rhyme, no reason!
Where the death of friends and trusted comrades
Ultimately has no meaning, no context it can be put into, 
No manner it can be understood and rationalized,
No reason that can ever explain why them and not you?


And these survivors of war returned home searching
For those answers and for what they had lost in war.

But this loss, this emptiness, this frustration, this searching,
Finds no answers, no solutions, no understanding,
No justification, no meaning, no sense.
The Vietnam veteran returned home, homeless,
Rejected, outcast, despised, ostracized.
By his own country, by the very people he used to know,
As he now, personally carries the blame for his war,
As the atrocities and horrors congruent of every war,
Were forever misplaced directly on his young weary shoulders. 
He was now held personally responsible,
For the war he was forced to fight; 
A war in which he had no choice,
He was just another “number,” sent to war by his country
Where he was considered too young and immature to vote!

Today you, another generation of Americans
Are sitting in these same college classrooms
Asking the same, unanswerable questions.
Probing for secrets of knowledge, for learning.
Today another White House and Congress
Without regard for the Vietnam experience
With no appreciation of the lessons of war
Would send your generation to their little war,
Where once again young men will fight and die
For a Politician’s equal, ignoble, unjustified, war,
Orchestrated and based on lies and falsehoods,
That they cannot explain, cannot justify.
Instead, rely on a Political sensitive General[1] over there,
Whose answer is always, “Six more months.”

I am here today as one of many Vietnam veterans
Who has experienced combat, 
Who has killed for his country,
Who has seen his countrymen killed.
I am a survivor and learned too much
About war, Government, human nature and life.
I will answer your questions as honestly
As I possibly can, just bear with me, 
As I continue, the search…for my soul!


Curtis D Bennett

 


The Becoming of a Man


Those returning from war are changed,
They are different; they are not the same.
Anyone who has been to war, knows this as fact,
Those who haven’t, can’t know.
But it is irrelevant, not meaningful,
To pick sides and fight about war experience,
To defend and justify your life experience.

Those veterans returning from war
Do not want to go to another one,
Do not want their children to fight one.
Do not want their country ever involved in war again!
Surely, there has to be other options!
My God, what happened to man’s ability to think?
To explore alternatives, to consider other alternatives?
War, should never be the first option,
Rather, should be considered only as the last resort.

Veterans who have been to war,
Seldom take up hunting as a sport,
For they have hunted humans,
And been hunted, neither is fun,
Neither is productive or sane.
Killing is something no one should do again,
Once they have done it once.
Might is not right, all people are human, 
This is learned by personal insight, experience,
That anyone can be killed in a war, 
And once dead, they are all the same.
None of them is ever coming back.
It is said, “Experience keeps a dear school,
But a fool will learn in no other.”

Veterans have all been to a life school,
And all have learned a crucial life lesson,
And having once been to war,
There is no need to go to another,
For nothing was proved by the first. 
Veterans know how to be alone,
And how to survive being alone,
They have confidence in themselves,
They can handle alone; handle isolation,
And are their own, best company, 
Based on the experience of being on your own,
On depending on yourself…to survive. 

Most veterans think politicians are a waste,
Are not to be believed, trusted, or counted on,
For they will say anything to get elected,
And once members of Congress, forget the people
Who put them there, until it is time to run again,
Then the circus and its clowns will start their new show.


When you meet a combat veteran, 
You are meeting a survivor, 
Who has passed all the tests of manhood,
Has proven his mettle, his honor, his humanity,
He will forever be the warrior, the man,
For the veteran has nothing left to prove, 
To anyone, anytime, anywhere…ever. 

Curtis D Bennett

 

 

 


 
Remember Me


I was once the pride of this country,
The healthy, the young, the strong and brave,
Then I quickly became the acceptable casualty
In my country’s undeclared war
In the name of national interest,
A country where I was too young to vote!

I went because I was still too young
To know any better, though others
Cleverly refused or ran away to hide.
I never once dreamed my own government
Would ever lie to its own people,
But I was mistaken and they did for years.

I fought their war in a hell for one year,
Then came home and found another hell,
Awaiting from the very people and country
Who determined I go in the first place
Then their war, suddenly became mine,
And I was the convenient scapegoat!

Today, I am the broken bodies and minds
Shunted off, out of sight, behind heavy doors
Of VA hospitals and mental wards to die.
I am in wheel chairs and braces, in hospital beds;
I walk the streets; I wander the railroad tracks,
I sleep beneath the stars. 


Curtis D Bennett

 

 


Keeping the Distance 


Beneath this earth young warriors sleep
Forever more, forever more,
And for what myth was it they died, 
Who sent them here forever?
To bury them, so far away 
From farm and village, hearth and soil?
We dare not ask of why or how, 
We dare not think too hard of them!
We need not question of ourselves, 
Of how we let them go so far, 
So we may keep our distance safe 
Can paint their pictures in our mind
Of how they sacrificed their lives;
Of how they died so willingly,
On land that did not give them birth.

Noblesse Oblige, they sleep the earth.
We know they did not wail or scream, 
Nor cry nor piss their pants in fear!,
They did not spill their crimson guts 
Through gaping wounds of steel-sliced flesh,
Or stare in numbness at their blood 
That pulsed and squirted, stained the soil.

We know they did not weep for mother, 
Nor curse their fate nor bawl in pain, 
Or seek to find their missing limbs, 
While dragging stumps through fiery ground,
Or smelled their own flesh, burning stench!
Nor whimpered soft through blood blind eyes, 
As whistling breath through gaping throats
Shot out their life in scarlet spurts.

We do not wish them here at home 
To find eternal, lasting sleep,
No, better stay in foreign lands, 
Where they sacrificed their life, 
No, t’is better they remain unseen,
To keep their distance and our dream
To keep them heroes, sight unseen,

For sure, they died as noble men, 
Not terror-stricken sons and boys, 
For if this myth were proved untrue,
How could we ever face ourselves? 
How could we ever…be so cruel?


Curtis D Bennett

 


Testimony


I went to Vietnam for a year.
It probably could have been 
Better spent elsewhere,
But I went anyhow,
Not that I chose to, or wanted to,
Not that I volunteered to go kill people.
Rather, I got a mandatory Draft Notice,
So I was sent into the Military, 
To do what Militaries do...fight wars.

I had never been to war,
Neither had most Americans who went
As it had been a long time passing,
Since the Korean debacle of the 50’s,
Where almost 34,000 Americans died,
In this three year “Police Action,” by the United Nations.
And it was a shock; a disappointment,
Not at all like the movies portray wars, no parades...bands,
There was no glory, no grandeur, no triumphs, no Victories!

Yet, at times, war can be spectacular,
Sometimes, in the aftermath of a battle,
It is the composition of the battlefield,
Resembling a sprawling canvas of terrible beauty,
Where nothing stirs; nothing moves in the silence;
Where gray smoke drifts and rises aimlessly
From blackened, broken, smouldering craters.
Where the dead sprawl awkwardly where they died,
In the exact moment of their brutal death!

Broken bodies and limb pieces, frozen for all time,
In grotesque caricatures configurations,
Their mouths slack and open, faces crawling with carrion flies,
Eyes half open, half closed, all dulled and distant,
As if they were staring, unfocused, into eternity.
Their war ended their life, their futures,
Brutally cut short, cut down in the prime
Of their young life, which is now forever gone.


There would be no wife to love; no children to raise,
No grandchildren to spoil at Christmas,
No legacy of the gene pool, no decedents,
All lost eternally and forever frozen in time.

Life as they once knew was gone; so totally over,
For each and every one of these young boys.
Quickly understood what war really was, 
An endless, long year of young men like himself
Killing “enemy,” brutally, callously as ordered 
Those who were fighting in and for their own country,
While we were strangers killing them in their own back yard…


This, makes a huge difference.

I did not set war policy, nor determine strategy,
I was told what to do and doing it as best I could,
In the most honorable way (if that is possible.)
I make no apologies for my behavior,
For fulfilling my duty, and following orders,
For being of “service,” to my country.
I quickly learned this war was very limited,
Bogged down in restrictions, with no clear cut direction,

I quickly understood I was there to survive
The hemorrhaging of my sanity, for one long year.
I quickly learned we were not there to win this war,
We were there simply hoping not to lose it, a big difference!
Could we have won? I don’t see how we really could,
But no country has ever won a war in a foreign country!
In Vietnam, never! Or in Afghanistan...not in a thousand years!


Still, Americans always want to be in there first.
To eagerly try to climb the impossible mountain, 
Rise mightily to meet the challenge, to sail the endless sea,
Why? Simply because....it’s what we always try to do!

Am I proud of what I did?
I am proud of me, I am also honored
To know the men who were there with me. 
Those, who shared this most horrific experience,
They are closer than any brother can ever be.
For war bonds men, bringing them closer
By the shared experience
Than anything else in the world.
Ask any veteran in any war.
And any who weren’t there,
Will never know; can never understand.

Would I do it again? Good question…
People are supposed to learn lessons,
From their experience, not repeat them
Over and over again, as our country does
In this war, we were wrong, 
Doing it again would not make it right
The answer: “Hell no...I would not do it again.”

Was it worth it? If you get beat up bad enough
You should be smarter next time.
We should have learned we do not go around
Shopping our armed forces; to keep them busy.
For any cause, any pretext, real or imagined,
Or perhaps we need to stimulate our economy.
Or if we just feel like having a fight, that’s wrong!
Worse…it is stupid! Why must we always have to fight?
Why do we always have some “threat,” some shadow enemy?
Another country is out to get us, topple us...think about that!


How paranoid are we as a nation anyhow?

If we don’t repeat the lessons learned the hard way over time,
Then it was probably worth it and can possibly save lives
Of future generations of our military, our youth.
But that appears to be an unlikely scenario,
We seem to not be able to go more than 20 years
Until we get into another conflict,
Until we send another generation, to die,
Under suspect circumstances, perhaps,
Or orchestrated, fabricated evidence and logic, 
From men who have no conscience, scruples, or soul.
As for the men who were killed in war?
It was such a tragic, needless waste!


Would I fight again?
If this country, this land, this nation
Is in immediate danger
And they are landing on the beaches,
And they are coming towards my home,
Then I will be the first to meet them to fight them,
And kill them; or die in the process.
Thank you!

In America today, right now we as a country, 
Face a hard decision on Afghanistan, 
To stay there, or not? What I find strange, 
Our Military seems bent on continuing over there,
After not being able to figure it out for the past 10 years!
They suddenly, they have a brain fart! Add more troops!
As if this is the best way to win in Afghanistan, 
The same Afghanistan, called the graveyard of empires, 
Where not even Alexander the Great,
Or Hannibal, both great Generals,
Who conquered the known world at the time,
Couldn’t win in “Bactria,” or “Balkh,” 
As it was commonly known back then,
Neither man with his great armies, not even Russia
Who was located next door, could subdue these people!


And now, we think we can from half way around the world?

As much as I’d really like to believe 
Our Government Leaders are smart and intelligent, 
And the Military really knows what they are doing, 
Sometimes you just gotta wonder how they reason;
How stubborn one must be to not be able to project; 
To think outside the box; anticipate probabilities.

To ask if it is worth it, if our kids should die 
To prevent radical Islam from taking over a country, 
I think that’s pretty weak to me, doesn’t ring right.
And certainly, not worth my kid dying for! 
Military Intelligence, sometimes, you just gotta wonder! 

What is it with the Military and their new expensive weapons?
Providing even more deadly methods to kill people?
Satellites, drones, mapping the known world,
And we can’t take out one old Muslim!
An old guy with a bunch of wives hiding somewhere?
It is a war waged against a few hundred, religious zealots; 
Justified by the never ending search for Bin Laden,
And even after we get him, there will be another,
Another regime dangerous to our security and way of life;
An elusive, every changing “bogey-man,” who never dies,
But we must keep the bogey-threat alive and dangerous,
For without this...those guys don’t have jobs…


Curtis D Bennett

 

 

 

 

 


Scars


Questing civilian eyes rudely stare
Blatantly at his missing parts
As if, by looking long enough
They will miraculously reappear.
Doesn’t anyone realize how long he stared?
Looking frantically, in vain, for what he had lost!
And how long, those scars took to heal!
And the unseen, deep scars within that haven’t yet?
Each time someone looks, judges, and sniffs on,
It rips that scar wide open again
As he bleeds once more…his very soul!


Curtis D Bennett

 

 

Black and White


Prior to Vietnam, Wars were in black and white footage,
The Civil War was recorded in black and white photos
The 1st World War, in grainy, jerky movies of armies,
The 2nd World War introduced some color in the footage,
And even included photos of the dead bodies
Washing ashore after an invasion from the sea,
All of this before television became the media of choice,
Bring America the Vietnam War in living color.
Complete with all the blood and gore of war;
Accompanied by the sound track of dying, frightened boys,
Waiting for that helicopter, which never came.

Prior to Vietnam, the Government censored wars,
For good reason, for wars were brutal, bloody, and vile,
And dead Americans cannot be sanitized nor sainted,
Their are no words to justify the destruction and death
Of the young boys whose bodies are so desecrated,
Torn up and broken into bloody pieces of human meat,
Ground up and callously spit out in the madness of war.

Night after night after night on the network news,
Just in time for dinner, came the reports from Vietnam,
From frightened correspondents in the jungle battlefield, 
Surrounded by the American limp, lifeless bodies,
Being loaded into helicopters like sacks of garbage,
Stacked on each other so as to conserve space and room,
There are no dignified deaths in war...
There is no way to eliminate the blood and death,
No say to deny the killing and bloodshed,
No way to justify...the horrendous human cost.

Yet, there is something that seems to fascinate us,
Draws viewers to the screen night after night to the news,
In the comfort and safety of their own homes, they watch
The efforts of America to wage war across the sea,
In a faraway land; for a vague, ignoble, forgotten cause,
A war, which over the years, has finally lost its reality,
And now, rings hollow...like a broken bell. 


Curtis D Bennett

 



History of War


America emerged as a country of the world,
By fighting the British for Independence,
Refusing to be one of her colonies,
And emerged triumphant in 1776,
A new nation in a new world,
Since then, we have been fighting wars,
With everyone; every place and everywhere.
Around the globe, near East, Far East, Russia,
Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Latin America,
A total of 66 conflicts in these 236 years,
Which has killed or wounded 2.6 million Americans...
Do you know the name... of one of them?


Curtis D Bennett

 

 

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The original War Poetry Website, researched and edited by David Roberts for nearly 20 years, 1999-2018 was number one in search results for "war poetry" for over 15 years. Re-written and re-designed 2019, it was launched 16 May 2019 at warpoetry.uk and replaces the original which used to be found at www.warpoetry.co.uk . Copyright 2019 David Roberts.