officer, then & now.

Back then, back there, if you were a man, 
you joined the military. Dad did.

Mom has photos
of him uniformed, ramrod straight
on campus, far from home, not yet
at war. He graduated 

& went. 22. An officer.
His first day, his first mission: find
a platoon presumed dead. 

He did. They were. 

Fifty years later, the tears 
have come back for those that didn't. 

The VA reached out: You can talk about it.
We're here. We'll listen. It'll do you good.
It almost always does.

These days, if you're a man long alone
with your feelings, you move slowly,
you mourn privately. After the VA, 
you pull over the car to weep, 
the tears coming like
a blowout. You'll be home late, 
dazed by the surprise of 
what you remember,
what you survived. 

This is a mostly true story. He's alright. Really. I saw him just the other day.

The photo, taken June 2019, shows Panel 8E of The Vietnam Memorial, where two men from dad’s unit—64th QM BN—are honored. Donald F. Leuthold (SFC, US Army) and William W. Webb (2ndLT, US Army) died during an ambush while on intel recon 06/05/1966. 

Click here for mental health resources, information, treatment options, and more — all accessible to veterans & veterans’ supporters. 

10 responses to “officer, then & now.”

  1. What a powerful story! What absolutely beautiful writing! This needs to be shared far and wide! People need to read it!


  2. Joel, that’s a gorgeous photo of the Vietnam Memorial. As a child of Vietnam—the war and draft ended two years before my high school graduation—I have strong memories of the domestic conflict and foreign one. It wasn’t easy. I have an uncle who was a MP in the army 22 years. I wrote to him during his Vietnam tour. He did not talk about the war. He marched around the perimeter of his home to cope w/ his war memories.


    • He’s begun volunteering things about back then, but I’ve never asked. It’s been a real lesson for me, seeing him be brave enough to confront things some would think are long past


  3. Joel, this is a powerful reminder that we did not do a good job welcoming home and supporting vets after the Vietnam war – we just wanted to put it aside and move forward….you cannot move forward, however, until you have dome to terms with your past. I really appreciate how you added the links….and this reminder to thank our vets

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the ‘clipped’ diction in the poem that slowly spools out and relaxes as the poem spins out the story of your dad. Was this a conscious decision. It seemed a very natural one. Thanks for channeling your father’s voice and experience. Look forward to your future poems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words—there’s a lot more poetry (usually about my family) throughout the blog. The clipped thing was conscious, mostly to convey the stark reality & duty of his (very) young manhood. In the drafting, then, the trip home from the first therapy session unspooled into a longer sentence / stanza


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