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  Revisiting Vietnam American RadioWorks
     
  Vietnam Scrapbook
     
   

Barbara Melton
Corvallis, OR, USA

FALLEN CENTURION

How do you measure a six-foot soldier?
Not just the body,
Wounded by horror
And the rigors of a 20-year foot patrol,
But the man-
Once a boy
Telling glory lies.

How do you tell the tale of a life
Bound by what should have been?
How paint, in olive and dust,
A child's heart-
Enari Rat with comrades,
'Winnin' the war'
Waged in his spirit until the end?

How do you sing a soldier
With a poet's heart?
What will his dream make
Of midnight raids
And daylight massacres-
Of those souls around him,
Encrusted with bitters,
Joking about offing gooks?

Say of him that to win a domestic peace,
Ridden by the war hag,
Anger brandished like a weapon,
Stupefied by drink or drug,
He would run,
Screaming to the night:
"They taught us how to kill
But never un-taught us!"

His wife and son,
Like targets in the stalking jungle,
Never knowing who the enemy is
Or where he will strike,
Sink into inevitable reality.
They will never know him;
He will not know them.
Reckoned thus, the soldier
Is diminished.

In the end, the measure of
This soldier is reduced to
Three cold words.
'Casualty of war' his sister
Names him, with compassion
Born of grief. His measure
Is a flag-draped box bedecked
With bronze and ribbon, his honor
Framed and mounted for display.

He would be grieved to see our pain.
For all his days
The little pranks life plays
Were sustenance to him.
Wherever he has journeyed to,
He must be laughing now.

In memoriam-
Randy LeRoy Melton, U.S. Army
June 1, 1949-February 23, 1993

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