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Two Years Later

by James Smith

In the first days of my destiny,
during a downpour, illuminated by lightning,
sheltered by a cheap plastic tarpaulin,
I lay beside the redhead Anna Salamone,
pretending to be a hippie
(to the dismay of my father).
We were encouraged “do your thing”
and freaks did a snake dance across the hill,
crazed by fiddles, guitars, and banjos,
in a farmer’s field at the ’67 Folk Festival.

In a rice paddy within the Iron Triangle,
armed with rifles, grenades, and claymores,
we watched for the enemy across the hill,
doing what we were ordered to do
(silently cursing our fathers).
We pretended to be soldiers,
me and my closest friend Jim Szczur,
huddled under a camouflaged blanket
during a downpour, unnerved by lightning,
in the last days of my delusion.

James Smith served as a grunt with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1969. He retired from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, and now spends much of his time working with veterans. After writing this piece, he decided to find Jim Szczur, and they met for the first time in 44 years.

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