Constant Memories

The Path Out of Vietnam

We walked in a place that was dark and presented no clear path to follow.
There was beauty untold and dangers beyond understanding.

Most of us did not ask to go there but it was our destiny and duty to do so.
It was that time when each breath and heart beat was precious.

The walk made us children borne of danger and raised on death.
The walk also made us children loved by God and saved for his purpose.

Things were lost along the away that can never be found or felt again.
Things were found that can never be removed from our memory.

If you walked not that path then you can not know our pain.
Even those of us that did walk there do not always understand our feelings.

We have decided that we are not weak because of what we must remember.
We have decided that if you were not there you cannot judge us.

If the truth be known it may have been the walk of our lives.
If you cannot understand these feelings it is because your path has been different.

We pray that you never have to walk the path where we have been.
May your thoughts and fears not come from whence ours come.

That walk is over and it is time for another one to start.
This new path is better marked and there are signs along the way.

It is time to live with the memories instead of letting them live us each day.
It is time to shed the guilt that was forced on us by those unknowing.

If we do not master the new path time will kill us and take away all that we love.
If we cannot find our way on this easier path we will be lost forever.

Copyright © October 1996 I. S. Parrish

A Ghost Walking

Men began to scream as bullets flew, and we fired at nothing to make certain it was dead.
Smoke drifted into our nostrils and eyes, I saw his jacket rip and then it turn to red.

His life drained away and flowed into the dirt, I wept for him and held him without shame.
A lifetime passed between each beat of my heart, and with his final breath he quietly spoke my name.

Today I have a ghost walking in my memories, I knew the man before he was that ghost.
After trying almost every day to forget, after all these years that man is the one I miss the most.

Copyright © September 1996 I. S. Parrish

The Huey Pilot

Casually he walks to the slick, a helmet with dark visor in his hand,
stepping from the skid into the cockpit, the switches and dials at his command.

He may be tired from many runs, it seems he lives under this plexi dome,
but with the stick between his legs and the pedals at his feet, he feels once again at home.

He fires up that turbine as the pre-flight is performed, the Jesus nut begins to turn,
that machine begins to rock and now starts that steady "Whop", and air begins to churn.

As those massive blades begin to claw the air he skillfully lifts his baby off the ground,
the tail begins to rise and the front seems slow to follow but no better pilot will be found.

I never saw his face, I never knew his name, but I'll never forget the day the Huey Pilot came.

With surgical precision he causes that Huey to hover, dip and dance behind a hill,
then he routinely skims the tops of trees, rising only to have his door gunner make another kill.

He listens to the Peter Pilot and Crew Chief as well as he watches for popped smoke,
glancing down he sees looks of relief on haggard faces, they know he will not choke.

With bullets pinging on the thin metal and stars appearing on the windshield he holds steady to the stick,
people are screaming to his rear, mortars dropping dangerously near, but he maintains a firm control of his slick.

He saves a dozen lives and takes supplies where no one else wishes to go, for him it is just another day,
at base camp he helps wash blood from the rear cabin and after he fingers new bullet holes he casually walks away.

I never saw his face, I never knew his name, but I'll never forget the day the Huey Pilot came.

Copyright © September 1996 I. S. Parrish


These men walked through hell and having
passed through the flames lost a part of their soul.
They watched their friends get shot and maimed
and themselves paid a physical and mental toll.

They prayed for life and they prayed for death
as they coped daily with tragedy and pain.
They saw and heard things that would kill most
men and they attempt to forget in vain.

Mostly shunned when they came home because of
things done by a few other men they could only morn.
They risked the life that God gave them and all they
received from their nation and friends were jeers and scorn.

They walk, talk and even laugh like other men as
they pretend the past is forgotten and that they are healed.
But deep inside a part of them is as dead as the men
that returned in bags, forever in the earth concealed.

These men served in Vietnam, that land
of beauty and jungle, horror and rath.
They went because they were called and they
served because it was the honerable path.

Copyright © June 1996 I. S. Parrish


Some complained because this soldier carried no rifle,
a tall, lanky man from Nebraska, with depth in his eyes.

He had instead a pack over his arm, with a big red cross on it,
his badge of courage, he said, full of things to help others.

We called him "Doc", it mattered not what his rank was,
a non-drinker so he always had a steady hand.

In the bush when the bullets struck we called him "Medic",
and he always came running, when others hugged the ground.

I saw this man carry those much larger than himself,
dragging some if he had to, with the determination of a lion.

I saw this man stuffing organs back in dying men,
often time crying as he worked, but smiling and calm.

Although he was wounded on many occasions he refused help,
always insisting that his scratches could wait for later.

This man held no degree from any university or college,
but this man held other men's lives in his hands daily.

He was a braver man than I, this man without a rifle,
I only cared for myself, and that badly, he cared for us all.

I hope you are proud , as should be, of the things you have done,
After all of these years, too late to see your face, I care for you now.

Copyright © May 1996 I. S. Parrish


After thirty years I still see faces in my dreams,
some who never grew to be old men.
Most went off to war with honor and pride,
hoping their future they would win.

The images float by like specters,
I see some laughing while others cry.
Each one from a different background,
none thought they might be mangled or die.

I had hoped to put them all to rest,
I had hoped that time would make them fade.
But as the years slip by the more I remember,
the more of my dreams they do invade.

Copyright © April 1996 I. S. Parrish


A young soldier got off an plane at Tan Son Nhute airfield, just outside of Saigon.
The heat was stifling and still, the smell of tent canvas strong in the humid air.
Plastic bags were loaded on the plane he left, bodies of men he did not know.
The nightmare had begun....

He was assigned to an Infantry company, a grunt, proud of his training and unit.
The base camp was a sparse dusty haven, sitting on a hill, surrounded by jungle.
During the day he would dig holes in the ground, bunkers to hid in when the mortars came.
The nightmare continued....

He went on patrols at night, always scared, dodging bullets and pungi stakes.
He made friends with the other men, they laughed, ate crummy food together.
Sometimes he only had a friend for a day, the mangled form flown out by Huey.
The nightmare got worse....

As the months passed, so did his youth, he was old at nineteen and a half.
He went down a dark hole one day, a tunnel, they gave him a flashlight to find his way.
A man he did not know, smaller, dressed in black, shot him in the chest.
The nightmare had come alive....

His soul departed that day, to comfort I am sure, his buddies wept in silence.
His mortal remains returned home, unheralded, given back to the earth.
His name engraved on a black obelisk, The Wall, a reminder for the survivors that...
The nightmare will never end.

Copyright © April 1996 I. S. Parrish


Before Vietnam my heart was pure and my conscience open and clear,
then I saw my friends maimed and killed and terror consumed my year.

Each endless day that slowly passed caused mounting anguish and pain,
and the desire to revenge the things I had seen made me even less humane.

After months of dust and heat and bullets I began to loose my soul,
as the steady diet of destruction and death began to takes its toll.

There was no shame nor caring nor time to think about another tomorrow,
I survived from day to day on fear and watched the waste in horror.

I Was Dancing With The Devil...

The sound of mortars and flash of flares and smell of blood has passed,
so the need to strike out and destroy and kill has gone away at last.

The smoke has cleared and the jungle is still and the bombs no longer fall,
and the Men and the boys who held the guns have answered the bugle-call.

It's hard to remember the why and the cause of that long political war,
yet somehow I survived when many did not with only a mental scar.

So I went home when the dance was over and the devil returned to Hell,
but the music and memories live on forever in my heart and mind as well.

Copyright © April 1996 I. S. Parrish

Room of Sorrow

Deep within the recesses of my mortal soul lies a room where secrets they be kept,
There are visions and pieces of time, in this place it seems where the devil himself has slept.

When moments of despair over me do wash and horrific images crowd my mind,
I know the door to this room has fractured and unpleasant thoughts I do find.

This room is a dark and loathsome place, kept best under lock and key,
It's intended for the storage of unwanted specters, never to be let free.

There are times when I slip in, to mentally fondle some thought, long ago stored in shame,
The Deceiver whispering in the recesses, at my doorstep laying the blame.

Skeletons line the walls where paint has chipped, then fallen, and dark nasties do reside,
Old crates brim with horrid stories dusty shelves are full and demons do confide.

Through our life, love we might receive, happiness at times even offers a sweet tomorrow,
Knowing we must go on, smiling in pain, laughing at death, there will always be, The Room of Sorrow.

We Planned to Go Killing

Lying in the rain and mud, I hear the screams of tormented souls.
We had planned to go killing, killing we received instead.
The point man got through the ambush, then the forest came alive.
Many friends are scattered around me, some bathed in blurry red.

A mortar falls to my left, living things are scattered and burned.
If only the darkness would hide me, the jungle shield me from harm.
The commo man stares through marble eyes, his radio the only thing alive.
The lieutenant howls into the handset, trying to sound the alarm.

There is firing in all directions, the M16 stutters and the AK47 cracks.
There is the smell of smoke and cordite and blood, a tinge of fear.
The medic tends a man with a hole in his belly, he may be lucky.
Some have fallen and hold to stumps, others know death is near.

A man runs this way, stumbles and falls, he looks so tired.
Crimson flowers blossom on his chest, begins to crawl, no place to go.
More mortars fall, I see black silk, they drop death on themselves.
The earth shakes, the trees tremble, time itself seems to be in limbo.

Forever trapped in this place, although I have walked away.
The sights and sounds, long over, remain stitched in my mind.
If God were there, He must still be weeping, a waste of flesh and nature.
The jungle, after all these years, has hidden what was left behind.

We must never again, as long as any can remember, plan on going killing.
A single life, so precious, has more worth than buckets of gold.
The survivors have aged, children have issued from those children.
We should try something different, sane, let them all grow peacefully old.

How Do You Say Good-by To The Dead?

I look in those cold, glassy eyes, so still and staring.
I remember when there was a smile there, a twinkle, life.

I touch that cold clammy skin, waxy, dry and pale.
Not long ago it was warm, pulsing with life and feeling.

I hear the silence, see the mouth frozen forever.
Only yesterday there was laughter, words of home, curses.

I see the hands, now claws, twisted and empty.
They once wrote a letter, patted a puppy, stroked a cheek.

How do you say good-by to the dead?

There are things I forgot to tell you, they slipped my mind.
There never seemed to be enough time, or the right time or place.

We were too busy doing other things, living, talking with others.
Time slipped by, we missed each other, you died and forgot to tell me why.

Sometimes we are to concerned about what others think, of being ridiculed.
We don't say the things we feel in our heart, the thanks, the gratitude.

You left me with these gifts inside, words that should have been uttered.
I'm sorry I forgot, I loved you, I will miss you, please let go of me now.

How do you say good-by to the dead?

Why Don't You Answer When I Call Your Name?

Why Don't You Answer When I Call Your Name?

I sit hunkered down in a sandbag bunker, tracers flying overhead.
Only yesterday we laughed and talked about things back home.

Why don't you answer when I call your name?

We've seen some things together, I guess both good and bad.
We've walked a lot of miles through vines and mud and rice.

Why don't you answer when I call your name?

You told me your wife's name and the names of your kids.
I shared with you the photos I had and a letter or two.

Why don't you answer when I call your name?

I came to love you as a brother, even though men aren't suppose to say
such things.

You have shared with me when what you gave me was the last there was.

Why don't you answer when I call your name?

I can't bear to look at the place where you stood only moments ago.
I'm afraid of what I will find or what might not be there.

Why don't you answer when I call your name?


I rise slowly, shaking my head to bring thought and dislodge the dirt and leaves from my hair. First I make it to one knee, then rise to my full six feet. I hear an odd ringing in my ears and feel a general weakness all over. The sticky cobwebs slowly lift from my brain as I glance down and see blood running down my arm and still more seeping from beneath my right pants leg. There is a jagged tear in my trousers.

As my vision clears, I look out over a smoldering patch of jungle wasteland. Where once bushes grew and flowers swayed in the breeze there is now splintered tree stumps and burning soil. The odors which reach my nostrils are a mixture of once green foliage, cordite and the sweet, sickening smell of burning flesh.

My God. There's an arm near that ditch, and the better part of a leg not twenty feet to my front. As I stare in horror, more bodies and body parts emerge from the smoke that rises from the ground.

What has happened? I am yet unable to remember. As I try to step forward I stumble and once again land on my hands and knees. The M-16 rifle, I do not remember holding, drops to the ground.

The jolt causes my mind to clear. I peer down into a stagnant, blood streaked pool and see the face of Death, and it is me.


What is it that killing does to a man?

Does it destroy his soul or merely chew away at the edges like a hungry rat?

Does it deaden his senses or cause them to come alive like a rocket?

Does it cause him anguish or fuel the evil that hides in the recesses of his mind?

Does it take away his self-respect or strengthen his macho mannerisms?

Does it cloud his judgement or cause him to see beyond reality and into truth?

Does it make him an animal or just another creature sucking on survival?

What is it that killing does to a man?


After you have tasted fear and dread, then there is love.

After you have drunk the blood of nature, then comes compassion.

After you have separated another human being from life, then you can receive religion.

After you have lost all self-respect and ego, then you will obtain enlightenment.

After you experience unearthly and catastrophic noise, then you will know silence.

After you have seen your best friend mangled, then you will know pain.

After you receive numerous unwanted projectiles in your body, then you may know death.


The first time I met him he had life in his eyes and fun in his heart.

When next we met, some weeks later, the eyes had begun to dull and he laughed much less than before.

The third time we spoke, a few months later, there was evil in his eyes and anger in his voice.

The next to last time we met he wept for himself and those he had killed.

The last time I saw him he stared from lifeless eyes as the body bag enveloped him.

From first to last, one of God's own children, known for a lifetime while serving in Vietnam, 1966-67.


Can I forget the screaming jets and low-flying choppers?

The smell of rotting jungle and stagnant water.

The sight of napalm exploding through and devastating a once beautiful countryside.

The bondbon beer and ice with cola caps inside.

The strangling rain storms and heat that burned the skin from my bones.


Can I forget the steady "thump" of VC mortars and starlight flares lighting up the night sky?

The reality of carrying my own bodybag in my backpack.

The bloody brown t-shirts and torn, twisted young bodies.

I might forget my own name, I will never forget Vietnam.

We were the forgotten patriots, yet only death will allow us to forget.


I went to war....

The webs of the mind trap the memories of another time with silken threads.

I saw the death....

The piercing eyes of mystery lurk there and peer out from under the heavy blackness.

I felt the fear....

There is beauty there, as well as evil and both come swaggering back when happiness slips.

I smelled the death....

I can smell with these memories, smells that remind me of things long past.

I met the devil....

All of a sudden, a dark mass emerges from those recesses and tries to un-grasp the edges that keep me sane.

I heard the horror....

Flashes and bursts explode in the darkness and try to pull me deeper into that gaping hole.

I sensed the terror....

Raw fingers of imaginary hands can barely hold the rocky edge of reality.

I returned home alive, only mentally damaged....

When I am dead, the THING will collapse and hopefully invade no other. Alas...freedom.

Copyright © 1995, By I. S. Parrish
MSG (Ret) Parrish served with the 69th Sig BN in and around Saigon 1966-67.

You can reach me, "Bub" Parrish, by E-mail at:

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