Craig Szwed: Then Wolf Pack Crew Chief, 5/67 - 12/67.
Retired from position as an i
nspector for Pratt & Whitney Jet Engines.
 Now full time writer.

A poem by Craig, delivered at the 2002 reunion:

On War's Failures

(For Doug Anderson, Poet and Soldier)

Your words terrify my flesh,

uprooting, pig-like, this acre

of the mass-grave we share,

half-dead half-buried memories,

by the cubic yard,

another bulldozer war, Viet Nam.

We WERE there,

born to witness social psychosis.

We are one, battlefield opposites:

you, on the ground, I, in the air;

you tried to save failing lives,

then body-bagged,

I tried to kill everything,

not knowing the score;

you saw eternal dismemberment,

I dismembered my counsciousness, to not see;

you were questioned about your moral impetus to record,

I wrote to defuse, and was not heard.

You and I do not enjoy wasted souls, hence,

carefully ink our quietly screaming epitaphs of war.

Class of Nam, 1967: self-named,

by talented boys,

destructive penchants practiced:

toasting enemy troops with deadly rains,

toasting fellow soldiers with friendly fire,

toasting ourselves with foreign substances,

but never to health, nor joy, nor peace,

nor holiness, nor goodness.

Like airborne quad-60 muzzle flashes,

our desperations, constant,

tried to pick off love and assurance,

but, we found the safeties were broken,

the sears filed to full auto:

once the trigger was pulled

only a malfunction seemed to end it for us,

unless lost in a steamy orgasm

forcing nature's more pleasant siren call

to dominate our wounded parts,

that even surgeons could not see.

We feared life and death,

but feared suffering most,

before, and after, our fiery unholy baptisms

into our new religion of creeping numbness, combat.

We still hurt to be alone, and together.

Intimacy and trust we crave, and fear,

for we knew the lust of war, too well.

We cling to smoldering straws,

strange bug repellent, hopes,

dim flares in our earthly nights and days,

glowing with each vague air movement.

Breaths held,

we'd much prefer someone softer, kinder,

sweeter, than flames, flashes, reports, but we watch.

Our tentative jungled gasps

wait for hellishness,

as we pray it never start with us, again.

Only God restrains our horrors,

"to each, his own,"

and passes us on, beyond the fires and the fights,

to seek new life, to learn love and trust, again.

Why did it seem so exciting and terrible at the same time?

Why were our "leaders" always back where it was safe?

Did they think us only voyeurs at our own torture and execution?

The nightmares may be gone,

but daydreams and questions still linger,

for none dared to give us a true accounting.

God, alone, will tell us the whole truth, face to face. 

(This poem was inspired by The Moon Reflected Fire, a book of poems by D. Anderson.  “On War’s Failures” was first read publicly at the 281st AHC Reunion Memorial Service, 27 September 2002, and is to be incorporated onto the 281st AHC official website, by permission of Craig Szwed, author.  All other rights are reserved to the author.)