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The Long War Dead
By Bryan Alec Floyd
The Permanent PressCopyright © 1976 Bryan Alec Floyd
All rights reserved.
Corporal Curt Meadows, U.S.M.C.
In the warp of military time,
his father got his son's last letter
after he had received
official word of his son's death.
His son's letter read:
"And there will be old memories
made alive and young
of the dying and the dead
the living have no right to forget."
Private Ian Godwin, U.S.M.C.
He stepped on a land mine,
falling up instead of down.
Afterward he lay still, listening
to his feet get up without him
and slowly walk away.
For this he was given a medal,
which he swallowed.
He was given crutches,
which he burned.
Flown Med-Evac to San Diego,
he was ordered to rehabilitate.
But he started to salute bedpans
and give orders to hypos,
and tell catheters to "Fire!"
He stood on his stumps,
yelling that he was going
to chase daisies up the hills
because winter had greened into spring,
that God had become rain and it was raining,
the soft mud of Vietnam cool between his toes
Sergeant Brandon Just, U.S.M.C.
He was alive with death:
Her name was Sung
and she was six years old.
By slightest mistake of degrees
on an artillery azimuth,
he had called for rockets and napalm.
Their wild wizardry of firepower
expired her mistake of a village,
killing everyone except her,
and napalm made her look
like she was dead among the dead,
she alone alive among their upturned corpses
burning toward the sky.
He and the platoon
got to them too late,
removing only her
to a hospital inside his base, Da Nang.
In the months that followed,
when he could make it back from the boonies,
he always went to visit Sung.
Finally he was ordered to a desk job at the base.
He visited her every day,
though he accused himself of being alive
and would stand in a slump,
breathing his despair,
before entering the children's ward.
But he would enter.
Sung, knowing it was him,
would turn toward the sound of his feet,
her own, seared beyond being feet,
crisply trying to stand on shadows,
cool but unseen.
And as he would come in,
Sung would hobble up to him
in her therapeutic cart,
smiling even when she did not smile, lipless,
her chin melted to her chest
that would never become breasts.
He would stand
and wait for her touch upon his hand
with her burn-splayed fingers
that came to lay a fire upon his flesh.
Sung was alive
and would live on despite life,
but even now her skull
seemed to be working its way through
the thin, fragile solids of wasted, waxen skin.
Her head was as bald as a bomb
whose paint had peeled.
She had no nose
and her ears were gone.
Her eyes had been removed,
and because they were not there,
they were there
invisibly looking him through.
Sung was child-happy
that he came and cared,
and when he would start to leave,
she would agonize her words
out of the hollow that was her mouth.
Her tongue, bitten in two while she had burned,
strafing his ears,
saying, without mercy,
I love you.
Corporal Charles Chungtu, U.S.M.C.
This is what the war ended up being about:
we would find a V.C. village,
and if we could not capture it
or clear it of Cong,
we called for jets.
The jets would come in, low and terrible,
sweeping down, and screaming,
in their first pass over the village.
Then they would return, dropping their first bombs
that flattened the huts to rubble and debris.
And then the jets would sweep back again
and drop more bombs
that blew the rubble and debris
to dust and ashes.
And then the jets would come back once again,
in a last pass, this time to drop napalm
that burned the dust and ashes to just nothing.
Then the village
that was not a village any more
was our village.
Private Rex Jones, U.S.M.C.
Eighteen years old
and wild for war,
After two weeks in Nam
he defined Eternity as a tour of duty:
He was a born loser,
ghetto-born and raised,
a high school drop-out and finally a grunt,
but he defined Forever.
His definition was so utterly simple
even the Pentagon physicists
When old Rex bought the farm
and was a hero,
he was buried in Arlington,
not far from the Kennedy brothers.
He joined half of his platoon there.
Several of us who came back
visited old Rex,
thinking we would say something.
None of us said a word.
Eighteen years old.
Private Jesus Santiago, U.S.M.C.
Directive: NAVAL 1842639-WIA Date: 20 Feb 76
To: Lt Cmdr Marshall Tipper, USN
San Francisco Naval Hospital
From: Cmdr Trevor Hartwright, USN
Subj: USMC Pvt Santiago, Jesus
his maxillary sinuses,
and both frontal lobes of his brain,
which has somewhat dulled his reactions
to these traumas.
He is mentally subdued
and less aware of his deficits
than otherwise he would be
if he had not undergone a lobotomy
from bullet shrapnel, type AK47
(patient was prisoner of war of North Vietnamese
but due to rank and ignorance
was supposedly disposed of
and left as being expired).
Infection and continued leaking
of spinal fluid
have caused certain vicissitudes:
he might have a paralyzed limb,
or two or three or four.
Due to these negations
if patient does again become "aware"
he will be unable to speak,
reason, protest, or assent,
becoming a kind of silent minority.
Other morbid complications include
having to lie face down or on his side
so that he will not aspirate
into his lungs any excess, unwanted secretions,
which would make his situation precarious.
he is not cognizant of his obligation
to empty his bladder
or evacuate his bowels, voluntarily,
and therefore will need a constant catheter
and daily/nightly enemas.
Parts of him
keep becoming necrotic,
necessitating surgical excise.
Personnel should be aware of this issue.
For the present and future
eliminate any requisite
of need for cosmetic surgery.
Lance Corporal Purdue Grace, U.S.M.C.
He went home when the new replacements
but before he left
he talked with several of them,
all of whom looked scared and a bit self-pitying.
They knew he had made it through his tour
without getting a cold much less a wound.
One of the braver replacements
told him they were all terrified.
The Lance Corporal told them, "To be scared is
I've seen lots of men change their pants
more than once a day, they were so scared.
But don't expect sympathy.
Sympathy is a sad word found in the dictionary
somewhere between scab and syphilis.
Always remember to keep your head out of your
and your ass out of the air.
Know this about this fucked-up war
that will never unfuck itself —
Life in Vietnam is a sea of shit:
Some people sink.
Some people swim.
And some people go in boats."
Private Joseph Plainview, U.S.M.C.
Lance Corporal Frank Realf, U.S.M.C.
After we would come back from the boonies
and before being allowed on leave
we would sometimes be shown films
on gonorrhea and syphilis.
The films would always be in blazing movie color
which was graphic
and supposed to encourage us
to stay clear of the B-girls
in Mama San Portia's in Da Nang
or the sweet tricks
in Diamond Lou's in Saigon.
But instead, the films always
made us horny
because they were in movie color and were
Besides, a man with the drips
couldn't be sent back into combat.
Rumor had it
that if anyone caught one of the diseases,
the enlisted Marines would give him a hundred
Rumor also had it
that if a man got both diseases,
he'd become a millionaire.
First Lieutenant Royal Young, U.S.M.C.
The Lieutenant said
he hoped to fall a corpse if he was lying,
swearing he had seen Christ
humping it in the paddies with the refugees.
The platoon thought
the sun had gotten into his' head
and had done something to the Lieutenant's eyes.
He stood there, more air than flesh,
under a sun that was bleeding down,
and grinned through his sobs.
The Gunnery Sergeant told the platoon to take five.
"Gunny Sergeant!" someone screamed.
But it was no mortar or rocket round.
Everyone looked up.
The Lieutenant was still standing,
both of his eyes plucked out,
the sockets staring
hollow and bleeding,
his bayonet, gouted, at his feet.
We kept him alive.
Corporal Norman Callows, U.S.M.C.
As if by some strange agreement
with some strange hell,
he said that doing people a hurt rested him.
The way he tells it,
he used to be a sonofabitch,
and really used to worry about it,
but since he was sent to Vietnam
and then was found guilty
of murdering six women and their nine children.
He just doesn't worry about it.
Corporal Victor Vanderbilt, U.S.M.C.
After the Marines liberated Hue
they dug up the bodies
the Viet Cong left behind,
the three thousand corpses who, when alive,
refused or were unable to rise
to ever higher and higher levels
of political consciousness,
and so were beaten and hacked and shot
to death after death after death,
liberated by their own.
The Marines thought
they had seen everything,
but nothing had ever been like this.
He went to a couple
who were on their knees, the tiny remains
of their year-old child before them.
Their baby had not lived long enough
to hate the world
or to blame life its living death called war.
Its mother was silent
beyond all silence;
its father dead
beyond all death.
Yet she spoke, sobbing.
Yet he breathed, wailing.
Their child had left them
listening to the song of shrapnel
when a bullet pierced its ears and brain.
It was so young
it had looked at everything,
Except its mother.
Except its father.
They were alive
and they were dead.
Anything that needs a lie is itself false.
This war, like all wars,
needed several lies.
Even the liars believed the lies.
When some of the Senators
told the President he was lying,
The President did not believe them.
When some of the Colonels
told the Generals that the Generals were lying,
the Generals did not believe them.
who thought caution cowardice,
did not confine their thoughts
to mere reason,
and so controlled most Generals
by obeying them.
If anything in this war
is to be learned
it is this: most Generals are politicians
Yet I forgive them.
They are not worth my hatred.
I know who they are
because I know who I am.
But because they do not know
what they are
they will never know me,
they with their plans and operations and missions.
The leaders on both sides wanted facts,
so they got facts,
and in the getting of facts,
did away with reality.
Each side knew
that life is not longitude,
but neither knew
that death is only one denouement:
those of us who died, died,
but we will have to die again:
we will be forgotten.
Private Jack Smith, U.S.M.C.
Since he came back
he never met with the friends he fought with in
and never mentioned the war:
Once he was ordered out
of his five-man fire team
to go and be point man.
He was about a hundred feet up front
when someone in his fire team
tripped a land mine,
and whoever it had been,
along with the other three,
were left somehow
unreasonably alive — just.
And there had been a Lance Corporal in his squad
whom the threat of peace always made aggressive.
The Lance Corporal was a sniper
with twenty-six kills marked up.
The Private was with him
when the Lance Corporal was cut down by a V.C.
and as the Private held him,
the Lance Corporal held his intestines in his hands,
saying, "I don't want to die. I'm afraid to die."
One night the Private and two other guys
slept in a sandbagged hootch
that was hit by two direct mortar rounds,
he being blasted awake and away
without a scratch
while those other two
were just pieces of themselves.
He could not find their heads
but laid the rest to rest
in ponchos that no one could tag
because their remains were Officially Unidentifiable.
After that he decided
to avoid moderation at any extreme
and shot every anything that moved.
He came to think that his officers
were more concerned with rank and medals
than with the lives and deaths of their men.
He came to feel that his politicians were garbage
who should have been wasted.
When he finished his tour of duty
and was sent home and Honorably Discharged,
he decided to live with his parents
and began college,
and majored in History on the GI Bill.
He thought he might join the peace movement
and started going to rallies.
His college was shut down four times
the semester he started,
and during the fourth shutdown,
his college president was beaten up
by several anti-imperialists
who took over the college
and burned down the ROTC building
and the library
and who kept the president in his office
until he resigned, on his own accord of course.
But the ex-Private kept going to the rallies,
looked, listened, learned.
He got to thinking
that most of the rally speakers
were happy with hallucinations,
and he thought
that several of the tens of thousands
in the crowds who kept yelling Right On
had either forgotten, or had never known,
that absolutism is addictive
and that the mob, any mob for any cause,
pregnant with fascism.
The fifth time his college was shut down
by the anti-imperialist anti-fascists,
he knew what he knew,
and knew that he must try
to walk through and beyond the mob
which had blocked his way to History.
He tried, knowing they would beat hell out of
and they did.
But it was he who was arrested
for disturbing the peace.
He was jailed.
His dad bailed him out
and told him he hoped he was satisfied
and that he should have felt ashamed.
But instead, the ex-Private felt himself feel
He went home again, and packed, and left.
That was four years ago.
Nobody has heard from him since.
Private First Class Cassidy Gavin, U.S.M.G.
His face always broke pale
at the sight of dead children,
their deaths brought about
mostly by bombs,
often from a fire fight,
and sometimes by torture.
He said of such deaths
that they were done
by people who were less than human.
For those first few months in Nam,
he tried to turn off the killing —
and the killing of his soul.
He went down through those days
trying to numb himself against himself.
Because he breathed
and was conscious of it,
he knew he was alive.
But after a while,
the war and its dead children
became so sick and sickening
he could no longer even try to turn it off.
On his first R & R in Bangkok,
he shot himself up with sweet smack heroin
and watched his hands go calm.
From then on out
he carried it with him
back into the boonies.
And it was not long before he knew he was dead
even before he died,
but he did not mind.
The shadows of the jungle began to shine
and he could hear the wild flowers
talking their colors.
He was on a fine high
when he finally got hit,
the bullet from somewhere
singing into his heart.
He fell, and his falling felt heavy and light at once,
and for a moment of a second he was afraid.
His falling went on
for longer than he could tell,
the shell inside him only slowly searching for a
but just as he hit earth,
all fear fell with him.
He lay still and smiled at God
and let himself sink
into a relaxing, bloodless depression
while he listened to the dead children call his name.
Excerpted from The Long War Dead by Bryan Alec Floyd. Copyright © 1976 Bryan Alec Floyd. Excerpted by permission of The Permanent Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsCorporal Curt Meadows, U.S.M.C.,
Private Ian Godwin, U.S.M.C.,
Sergeant Brandon Just, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Charles Chungtu, U.S.M.C.,
Private Rex Jones, U.S.M.C.,
Private Jesus Santiago, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Purdue Grace, U.S.M.C.,
Private Joseph Plainview, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Frank Realf, U.S.M.C.,
First Lieutenant Royal Young, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Norman Callows, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Victor Vanderbilt, U.S.M.C.,
Private Jack Smith, U.S.M.C.,
Private First Class Cassidy Gavin, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Myron Striker, U.S.M.C.,
Private First Class George Rooney, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Elmer Rodin, U.S.M.C.,
Private Nels Larson-Berman, U.S.M.C.,
Private First Class Miro Cayey, U.S.M.C.,
Private First Class David Princeton, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Ben Mann, U.S.M.C.,
Private 2147652, U.S.M.C.,
Captain James Leson, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Nathanial Hampshire, U.S.M.C.,
Private Lennon Pancake III, U.S.M.C.,
Private First Class Jefferson Lee, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Kevin Spina, U.S.M.C.,
Sergeant Jules Beaumont, U.S.M.C.,
Private First Class Brooks Morgenstein, U.S.M.C.,
Private First Class Sy Converse, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Hunter Ward, U.S.M.C.,
Private First Class Oran Brodsky, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Dudley Woodruff, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Jyo Mitshibutzi, U.S.M.C.,
Private Richardo Carreras, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Jessesseppe Quinnpiac, U.S.M.C.,
Sergeant Buford Joyce, U.S.M.C.,
Second Lieutenant Parvin Zelmer, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Pasquale Zumatte, U.S.M.C.,
Private Cincinnatus Osgood, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Adam Worth, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Henry Hart, U.S.M.C.,
Corporal Ulysses Oznos, U.S.M.C.,
Gunnery Sergeant Wayne Boone, U.S.M.C.,
Lance Corporal Updike Fellows, U.S.M.C.,
Chief Petty Officer Elijah Christian, Corpsman, U.S.N.,