I have never had any regrets about Viet Nam. I have never been troubled as some who served there but there is never a day goes by that I am not reminded of my time in Viet Nam in some way, be it a name, a sound, a song or a day dream, an ache or pain. Some found it too hard and took to drink and some were depressed. I think the hardest part was the way the Government, the New Zealand public and the RSA treated us and lied about Agent Orange.

Thankfully after 35 years something is being done to rectify that treatment by way of the Memorandum of Understanding and apologies from the Government and RSA at Tribute 08 in Wellington. I wrote this because I understand that it can be like this for some veterans.

I dreamed the soldier dream last night; it came to me so clear
I dreamed I saw my old platoon; they seemed to me so near

I dreamed I heard again the sounds that only soldiers understand
And I dreamed I smelt the jungle smells of that far distant land

And in the dream I felt the heat, and the heavy monsoon rain
And I felt again the comfort of the ground, in the places I have laid

I dreamed I saw the blood red stain of the hard red laterite soil
I saw again the thick jungle slopes, through which we had to toil

And the dead and jumbled trees caused by Agent Orange sprays
Devastating to the jungle and the effects will last us all our days

I dreamed I heard the insects, mainly the mossies angry scream
And I saw my legs festooned with leeches, after crossing any stream

I dreamed I felt again the familiar feel, of rifle, web and pack
And I felt again my shoulders pain and the weight upon my back

I dreamed of being out of water, and the terrible, burning thirst
I felt of all the deprivations, the lack of water is the worst

I dreamed of the itch of Tinea that stretched from toes to waist
And I dreamed of taking Paludrine and its bitter awful taste

I heard again the rifle shots, and saw machine guns tracer lines
I heard again the crash of shells, and the blast of Claymore mines

I dreamed I smelt the cordite and the strong iron smell of blood
And I dreamed of finding bodies and the wounded in the mud

I dreamed of our wounded soldiers, dusted off to waiting aid
And I dreamed of other soldiers and the sacrifices they had made

I dreamed of empty hours, doing sentry in a gun pit in the sun
I dreamed of fear filled sentry night's, in that pit behind the gun

I dreamed of all these things, and it was if it were but only yesterday
As I slept that restless sleep that twists the sheets in which I lay

I awoke to find that the world was as I'd left it, when I went to bed
The soldier dream was real for me to see, but now only in my head

Peter M. Anderson, W3 Coy, 1969-70

Read more about Peter Anderson's Vietnam experience here.

Reference: 

© Peter M. Anderson. Not to be published or reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder.

How to cite this page: 'The Soldier Dream - Poem', URL: http://www.vietnamwar.govt.nz/memory/the-soldier-dream-poem, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Sep-2013

Comments

Peter;
This is a moving poem. Fortunately I do not have dreams of Vietnam but if I choose to think of my time there the memories quickly come. Like you I do not regret my time in Vietnam but it has taken me over 40 years to be free from the rejection by my country. While I am proud of being a Vietnam vet as well as a Borneo vet I have reached the stage where I see myself as a returned serviceman and this I can live with. I went to a musical last night "In the mood". Near the end they went through the wars and asked those who took part to stand and be applauded. I did so and I think I was the only one. I stood there at attention, in my one and only suit with my RSA tie and badge while the audience applauded me. They did not know I was a Vietnam vet but for me it didn't matter. I was finally being applauded for risking my life for my country. It was great.

Thank you for your poem. Keep writing.

Dennis Griffin V2