"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Vietnam Story: by Gary Jacobson

Gary Jacobson - Vietnam '66-'67

I am Gary Jacobson, The Vietnam Bard.  Some call me the Vietnam Poet Laureate. I'm also an author, Just a Walk in the Park, a poet, (My Thousand Yard Stare), and I am a Vietnam combat vet.

Forty years ago, I was sent by my rich uncle to work in his vineyards in a land all white and ready to harvest ~ hereinafter referred to as Vietnam.

I served with 1st platoon, B Co 2nd/7th 1st Air Cavalry '66 - '67, as a combat infantryman.  We called ourselves 'Grunts', operating out of LZ Betty near beautiful downtown Phan Thiet, Vietnam.

My unit was the same unit that was depicted in the Mel Gibson movie, "We Were Soldiers," only I came along one year later.

Vietnam changed all who served, indelibly and forever. I'm now on a 100% disability rating with an extra hole in my head, covered by a 3x4 inch plate.

Shrapnel the size of a quarter is currently embedded three inches into my brain.  This traumatic brain injury was compliments of a tripwire booby trap that triggered a grenade, that in turn detonated an artillery round ... and in the process, it completely ruined my whole day on April, 22, 1967, during a combat operation in the boonies near Phan Rang, Vietnam, April 28, ‘67.

My greatest motivating desire in writing about Vietnam was first, a cathartic one, to heal the demons of war within me where I'd stashed them so long ago.  Writing brought them out, so I could confront and deal with them face-to-face, looking them in the eye.

I know everyone is not the same, and everyone is not ready for this, but writing about Vietnam helped me heal.  

I have received so many letters from brothers-in-arms, like the one telling me, "Damn.  You tell it just as I feel it, but cannot express. You echo the words in my head that I can't get out. I didn't know anyone else thought the way I did." 

Many tell me my words are also healing to them, too.  Like the tough Marine tank sergeant who called and told me he was crying like a baby, because someone else understood, and he thanked me. 

I have also had several write, after viewing my site, saying they were able to talk about "The Nam" for the first time with their families. Before that, they had not been able to talk about what they had seen and experienced in Vietnam. 

They told me they pulled their entire family in front of the computer, went through my pictures and words to show them what Nam was like for them. What a humbling experience.  I write for them!

Parents, brothers, sisters, children of vets, write to thank me for helping them to know their loved one better. Now they understand why he acts the way he does, why he won’t talk, where he'd been and why he'd changed, what he'd experienced.  He would not, or could not, talk about it.  My writing helped them connect and feel closer to their veteran.  As a writer, that is always humbling. I write for them!

I write because I feel a great need to promote a better understanding about the realities of war in those that haven't the foggiest idea of what war is really all about. There is no glory in war! War isn't the clean and antiseptic fare we see in the movies.  War is a deep fear of lingering death in the mud and blood (ours and theirs) that stays and haunts soldiers  for the rest of their lives. 

A Vietnamese legend says, "All poets are full of silver threads that rise inside them as the moon grows large."  So, when I write, it is because these silver thread words are poking at me, and I must let them out. 

Gary Jacobson

Walk the Point of the Spear

by Gary Jacobson © 2013

Today I walk the point of the spear
First to hear
What’s lurking in shadowed dark
Waiting for you…
Just you
Walking the park.

On point
In this jive jungle joint,
I’m first to see… Lucky me
Who or what waits for me
Be he good time Charlie
To kill me… maybe just maim me.

Sniper in the tree
Can’t you see
Or Mr. Charles gift without warning sound
Booby tramp tamped in the ground
When it goes boom… somebody will die
Somebody will cry.

See his tripwire across the trail
Quick transport to hell
Oh well!
Somebody’s got to do it
Be first in line to meet the sh__
Uh, er, welcoming surprise.

Besides… be ye Sinner or Saint
How quaint
You don’t want to live forever,
Do you? You do!
Too bad, so sad…
No joy! Zin loi!

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. Excellant. I don't find writing healing. I find it necessary, but painful. I too served in Phan Thiet, the nước mắm capitol of the world, a beautiful if occasionally deadly place. There is something special about being the man on "point", but I would not recommend it. Welcome home.

  2. Outsanding !
    Later Dee[815th /102 Eng 75th Ranger US Army Rt . ]

  3. Thank you for your post. My high school classmate, Bob Consoli, was 1st Air Cav in the late 60s. He was wounded from incoming rounds. Others around him died. I served in 70-71 in Nam, then Germany. I was lucky to come out of Nam whole except for the AO contact in the jungles and clearings where dioxin was used. Diabetes doesn't run in my family/relatives. But many Vietnam veterans subsequently came down with it along with other terrible illnesses from the massive use of the herbicide.


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