I’ve been to Vietnam.
Not because I was drafted,
But because I wasn’t.
I had to see first-hand the people
Who defied the calculation
That massive doses of
Napalm and bombs
Would bring surrender.
The war in Vietnam
Has lived with me.
Has shaped me.
It made me an activist.
My trip to Vietnam
Made me more of an American.
In a small boat in the Mekong Delta,
I touched the fear of GI’s on patrol
Who could not see behind the dense growth
Along the banks.
As the Vietnamese rebuild their country,
American visitors are welcomed and
Reminded who won and who lost.
On the lawn of the former Presidential Palace
In Saigon were replicas of a Chinese and Soviet tank
That helped dismantle the old regime.
Nearby was a U.S. fighter jet hijacked by
A Viet Cong pilot who joined the assault.
In Hanoi we had lunch at the hotel
Where Jane Fonda and other leaders of the
Anti-war movement stayed during their 1972
Visit to the leaders of the communist government.
I came with admiration for the Vietnamese
Liberation of their country.
In Vietnam I
Faced the trauma
Of the GI’s and officers
Who fought there.
We visited the prison where
John McCain and other
Captured American pilots were held.
Fifty miles outside Saigon
Was a war memorial
That showed a short documentary
About a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl
Who killed a record number of American soldiers.
An American veteran
Allowed our Vietnamese guide
To use him to demonstrate
How hidden doors on the jungle floor
Trapped American soldiers.
We were invited to enter the
Tunnels where the Viet Cong
Laid in wait for them,
I was too large and too
Afraid to follow him inside.
I mentioned to our guide
The millions of Americans, like me,
Who opposed the war —
Marching, protesting, demanding
“U.S. get out of Vietnam.”
Our guide said he understood.
Back in Saigon,
A city with pulsing energy
That made a New Yorker feel at home,
A Young Vietnamese businessman
Spoke about the dislocation and turmoil
His pro-American family endured.
50 Years later,
Not exactly friends,
Vietnamese and Americans
Are coming to know one another