by John Saylor
Volunteered to win the war; ignored the news. Who was keeping score? High school sweetie: a Teenage Queen traded for an M-16. Humping the boonies with a plan: Intervals between each man; survival’s edge marked by extra frags, colored smoke, and fifteen mags. Suffocation, killing heat, ringworm itch, and soggy feet. “Mission’s sacred.” “We’re on track.” “Take that hill.” “Now give it back.” “Arty short round.” They’re losing trust and digging deeper. “They’ll adjust.” Walking point was the warrior Sporting a K-bar as the last resort. “Hearts and minds.” We’re making nice. “Leave the rations.” “Take the rice.” Give and take from village elders whose side depends on who or what they can hide. “Rounds incoming!" “Someone’s hit!” Shouting. Shooting. In “the shit” where The AKs were tracking, the shrapnel Cracking, and I peed my pants. “Airstrike, inbound!” What’s the fuss? Will they know it’s them—or us? “Charlie’s leaving.” Post-fight jitters and napalm perfume: “Crispy critters.” Night security, noises, and scares. Stars and Stripes: “We Won the Fight!” (“But stay inside the wire at night.”) Going home. Gave all I’ve got. Souvenir’d with jungle rot. Spared the wounds—the body bag. Wiser now. Next war comes, they’re sending you.