Well, of course it was righteous.
Bear any burden, pay any price,
what you could do for your country.
Godless communists, after all.
You may have been only seventeen,
but you’d seen them already
in Hungary, Cuba, Berlin.
Something had to be done,
and someone would have to do it.
There is something about a thatched-roof
hut in the middle of rice fields, burning,
a mortally wounded woman softly
keening, child dead in her arms,
that can’t be blamed on Chairman Mao,
Castro, Lenin, or Das Kapital.
Heavy artillery flattened that home.
Ours. Our guns did that.
Long before I reached my thirteen months,
I discovered I had nothing to cling to
but a girl back home. A young girl.
Still in high school. Watching her friends
go out on dates, having fun, enjoying
all of the things that seniors do
for the last exuberant time together.
She must have agonized for months
before she sent me that final letter.
I hope she’s had a nice life. I mean it.
– W.D. Ehrhart