A Vietnam Vet's Reflections: 'When I Think'

The Long March
US Army

My mind’s eye sees the truly great.


The line of grunts, stooped and low.

Running to the fire.

Grasping life by the handguard.

Always to the front.

Exhaustion, pain, frustration, and fear.

They walk through each soul’s history.

Through corridors of light, dark, and haze.

The memories firm and the pain less.

The fog of war and the mournful mutter of the battlefield.

Of this, I think.

Youth in body.

Full of endless sun and boundless energy.

Singing souls and sacrifice.

Their spirit as the flowers, bright and attracting.

Their bodies hard and unyielding as their countenance.

Touched with fire and forged to wicked edge.

To think this is precious and never to forget.

To be with men quenching at ageless springs.

Marching still to sounds long lost

The perimeter of the soul.

Never to deny the pleasure of a morning’s reveries.

The bright light of life.

Time does not diminish with its noise and fog, the flower of the spirit.

They are the blades of grass—green, growing, and endless.

They appear as the streamers of white clouds and the whispers of the sky.

Their names, obscure. Their faces forever.

Their actions never lost.

This is what I think.

The furtive figures fight for life by dealing with death.

Their hearts are the center of the fire and the forger of their spirit.

They are the sun of my mind

The air forever signed with their honor.

This is what I think. 

Col (Ret) Keith Nightingale commanded four rifle companies, three battalions and two brigades.  He regularly practiced field sanitation techniques. He is a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame.

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