We were there for a long long time.
Our military presence there was a sign:
America would uphold capitalist resistance
against Viet Cong communist insistence.
In the end it didn’t work out that way:
The North moved onto the the South to stay.
After years of war hemophilia.
We started with an idea to protect the world
against communist incursion that swirled
throughout Asia and Europe and South America,
so dominoes wouldn’t fall on US in America.
Kennedy had good intentions,
as Cold War assumed gargantuan dimensions.
He sent in the advisors and trainers,
as if the whole project were a strategic no-brainer.
Johnson stepped up the escalation,
had his guys doing all the right calculations.
But when McNamara found doubts and resigned,
then Cronkite and New Hampshire consigned.
Old Lyndon’s stress and strain were now showing.
He could see where this whole damn thing was going.
So Ho and his insurgents unearthed new determination
to turn Vietnam into a Communist nation.
Along came Nixon with all that American bluster,
and the waning resolve that a silent majority could muster.
Although Nixon was stubborn, he got paranoid and stumbled.
I guess he, and we, needed to be humbled.
There began, during that time of our national distress,
a cultural fissure we find it hard to redress:
there’s them that went, and them that didn’t go.
As one who didn’t go, I want you to know–
you who fought in the shadow of the Ho Chi Minh trail–
you went and you fought; you did not fail.
In some lessons we stand, but in others we fall;
the truths you taught us were the hardest of all.
You were the brave; you who bore the burden, the few.
We couldn’t have known what to do, but for you.
The battles that men make and the wars that we fight
are borne, in our own American way, in the desire to do right.
Looking back on it, I think it’s plain to see:
all we were wanting was to make the world free.
That old war began with us in Vietnam,
but it ended with Vietnam in us,
a haunting memory that’ll never go away: jungle patrols long gone,
body counts and trumpets that end in a hush.
If you visit the Vietnam War Memorial today,
you’ll see Washington’s Memorial beyond the long wall, granite gray.
At the end of the other angled plane, set your sights on Lincoln’s dedication:
to honor those who bled and died for our upstart nation.
Remember those brave slain at Gettysburg, Verdun, the Bulge, Korea, Saigon,
who lifted freedom’s defense at Iwo Jima, Ia Drang, Hue and Khe Sanh.
Yes, now it’s time, our old grievance to acknowledge:
some served in hell while others were in college.
But hey, let us now endeavor,
because we hope our noblest intentions can live forever.
Let us give honor to those brave souls who, in firefights across the ocean,
paid the dear price of our liberty with their last full measure of devotion,
whether they be now dead,
or with post-traumatic stress instead,
That aint no jive.
Don’t ever give up.