by Neil Leinwohl
We came aboard.
One by one.
Smelling of canvas and gun oil.
Following the guidon.
The numbered cloth we belonged too.
Just like in the movies.
This would be the newsreel insert.
To some Hollywood version of our lives.
The lucky would be surprised someday.
“Hey that’s me!”
The rest of the movie would be ruined.
Aboard the ark we stowed our past.
And practiced not writing letters.
The rolling water reminded us we were soldiers.
For 21 days we sharpened knives.
And threw up on the fish.
At Subic Bay we ate like prisoners condemned to death.
Which some were.
The next morning we found out what hot is.
And marched across a beach at port arms.
We saw our first helicopter crash.
And a woman eat the biggest bug in the world.
We drew real 5.56.
Then went to sleep until the mortar attack.
Hid for a while.
Discussed close calls.
And went back to sleep.
Then the Sandman whispered a secret.
Gentleman welcome to the rest of your life.
Neil Leinwohl served as a photographer in Viet Nam with the 34th Engineer BN. and as a photographer with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. He is currently a Creative Director of a New York advertising agency. He is also an artist and was represented at the VAP Pentagon Exhibition in July.