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I was six months old when my father left for Vietnam, as a first lieutenant with the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles.

I was six months old when my father left for Vietnam, as a first lieutenant with the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles. My brother ran through the house like "Soupy-man," cape draped over his shoulders: "My daddy fly up in the air, my daddy fly up in the air!" I had no idea who my father was when he came home a year later, inching over the backseat of the car to sit between him and my chatty brother. I have no memory of this. I was too little then, but it is ingrained in me like my other memories of my father and his tour in Vietnam. These are collective memories, family memories, the quiet truths of war born by all of us, carried and curated as if our own. Then it was Vietnam, now it is Afghanistan, but war is all the same. When I saw a New York Times photo essay and video interactive about one battalion’s deployment to Afghanistan, I wrote a poem in a series of tweets, moved by a sad man holding his baby, hugging his wife. As I looked at this man cradling his child, I thought of how my life changed as an infant, how those first six months of innocence were cut short, how Vietnam made me who I am.


My father used to look at the stars
and think of me, my brother,
my mother. In short shorts.
In Vietnam, my father "saw some shit.”
In the central highlands, along the central coast,
by the Cambodian border. I was a baby then.

I have no memory of an innocent time,
before I carried his war stories
in my head, like a movie I'd seen.

War makes no sense, my father always said.
We watch the NewsHour together, to honor the dead.
It ends quietly. Like the silence of those who can no longer speak.


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