Fifty years ago, I turned 20 in Saigon, a very drunk and slap happy soldier in the service of the US Military Assistance Command Vietnam. We were making war, when we weren’t doing Happy Hours in every bar from Soc Trang to Da Nang.

O, we were so damn clever and full of ourselves. Nowadays, Vietnam veterans feel lucky to live to retirement age and not be stricken by cancer, heart disease or some other damn malady from exposure to Agent Orange and other military follies.

Some of us tried to tell America when we came home that things in sunny Southeast Asia were not so rosy as portrayed in official pronouncements and the news media. It took years to find fellow Americans willing to hear what any of us had to say. So bewildering war experiences stewed in our brains and bodies’ startled responses to life events and night sweats—until a barrage of rage burst out, in drunken curses, flying fists, squealing tires, or—if we were lucky—published stories and poems.

That is the genesis of a collection of writings that I helped to edit and publish as the war was officially winding down in 1972, called Winning Hearts & Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans.

You can read the rest of this post on Jan Barry’s website