A Letter To The Wall and Other Poems by Veterans

May 25th, 2020 - by Doug Rawlings & Tarak Kauff

A Letter To The Wall

by Doug Rawlings, Veteran

7/15th Artillery, LZ Uplift and Firebase Two Bits. July 2, 1969 — August 9, 1970

Dear comrades: Unbeknownst to you, I suspect, your names have been placed on this Vietnam Veterans Memorial situated in our nation’s capital in the shadows of the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. Since The Wall’s construction, thousands have come to look at your names, to touch them, and to weep at the great loss of your lives . . . .

There are almost 10,000 of you here with whom I could have shared your fates — you were wasted while I was in country from July of 1969 to August of 1970. So it goes. I’m not wallowing in total despair; I’m not pitying you either; and I’m not trying to turn you into a political football. Really. I’m not. However, I have to tell you that your deaths and the destruction we all brought down on the Vietnamese people have politicized — even radicalized — some of us beyond our wildest dreams. Still, we treat your resting place here as sacred ground . . . .

I suppose some of us fantasize that you still dream, that you’re in some kind of version of sleep, connecting with us through this black granite wall. Why else would I be talking to you today? Why else do I feel your presence, especially in the darkest hours of night? You are reaching out to us, but why? And how?

I can’t answer those questions, but allow me to walk you through my journey with you. I’ll do this through three poems — the first I wrote out of anger before I visited you. I was convinced that a nation that literally worships war could do no better than construct a monument that would glorify war.

The second I wrote after visiting you for the first time and finding out that a memorial could be built that does not trivialize your deaths. Thanks to Maya Lin, a person whom I wish you could meet, we have before us a solemn testament to the true costs of war. 

The third was written somewhat out of anger and also remorse. It was written after visiting you on Veterans Day a few years ago. I was appalled at how some visitors to you were caught up in their own fantasies, wrapped in red, white, and blue, thinking that your sacrifice somehow made their lives safer, better. I don’t share that fantasy.

In any event, please accept these poems as gifts to you. You are never far from my thoughts and sometimes dreams and sometimes nightmares. 

If it’s possible, please rest in peace. And know that some of us use your lives and deaths as reminders that we should never stop working for a world free of war. We owe you that. Take good care, my friends. Doug


Corporate America, be forewarned: We are your karma  

We are your Orion  rising in the night sky.  

We are the scorpion in your jackboot 

Corporate America, be forewarned: 

We will not buy your bloody parades anymore  

We refuse your worthless praise  

We spit on your war memorials 

Corporate America, be forewarned: 

We will not feed you our bodies,

our minds, our children, anymore 

Corporate America, be forewarned: 

If we have our way (and we will) 

the real war memorials  

will rise from your ashes


THE WALL (ca 1986)

Descending into this declivity 

dug into our nation’s capital

by the cloven hoof

of yet another one of our country’s

tropical wars

Slipping past the names of those

whose wounds

refuse to heal

Slipping past the panel where

my name would have been

could have been

perhaps should have been

Down to The Wall’s greatest depth

where the beginning meets the end

I kneel

Staring through my own reflection

beyond the names of those

who died so young 

Knowing now that The Wall

has finally found me –-


thousand-yard stares

have fixed on me

as if I were their Pole Star

as if I could guide their mute testimony

back into the world

as if I could connect all those dots

in the nighttime sky—

As if I could tell them

the reason why


WALKING THE WALL (ca 2015) for Don Evon

Note: My time in Vietnam started in early July, 1969 — Wall panel number W21– and ended in early August, 1970 — panel W7, line 29– a walk of about 25 paces past the names of around 9800 dead. I call this “walking The Wall.” 

Got to tell you that you’re making me nervous

Every time you thank me for my service

I know you’re trying to be nice and kind

But you are really, truly fucking with my mind

Trust me, it’s not that I really care what you think

You who have had too much of their kool aid to drink

Trust me, you don’t know shit about what service really means

You just need to know that nothing really is as it seems

So take a walk with me down the Wall some late evening

Where we can all listen to the ghostly young soldiers keening

But don’t waste your time thanking them for their service

They just might tell you the truth — all your wars are worthless

Remember Them

by Tarak Kauff, Veteran

Memorial Day

A time to remember those who died

    as a result of wars of aggression and empire

For us in the US to start from the beginning

Remember each slowly.

Do not hasten in remembrance

56,000,000 Indigenous North American Indians

30-60,000,000 slaves (That was a war, too)

200,000 Filipinos

2,000,000 Koreans

3-4,000,000 Vietnamese

750,000 Cambodians

70,000 Laotians

111,000 Afghanis

500,000 Iraqis

1,500,000 US Americans in all wars

If we include WW 1 & 2

37,000,000 in WW 1

85,000,000 in WW 2

The numbers are staggering

They were all once living, breathing people

with hopes, loves and lives to live

Like us

Many were just children

Whose lives were stolen by war

All the wars, so much destroyed

Why? And by who?

Always the wealthy, the powerful

Grasping to keep, or more often to greedily expand their wealth

The lives extinguished meaning little

Money, gold and power always more important

Who fights and dies in the wars?

Ordinary, everyday people

But mostly non-combatants

Let us remember all of them but especially the children

Innocent they were

The orphans, the homeless

Those disfigured for life

And remember the precious animals

also innocent, more so than humans

And think of the living earth . . . and grieve.

Tarak Kauff is a former US Army paratrooper who served from 1959-1962, a member of Veterans For Peace, Editor-in-Chief Peace & Planet News, VFP’s quarterly newspaper and a former member of the VFP National Board of Directors.