The Vietnam Wall came to town last Spring.
I had to see it again knowing what it would bring.
Feelings that somehow seem never to fade,
Reading thousands of names and the price that they paid.
My memory went back to that cold winter day,
We had landed in 'Frisco, right next to the bay.
I remembered the newsreels made on V J Day,
When the crowds did cheer and the bands did play.
Would our welcome be loud? Cheers and songs from the crowd,
Or a speech on the tarmac, would make us feel proud.
Our time served in 'Nam, we'd be soon homeward bound.
But as we stepped off the plane, we heard not a sound.
The field was deserted, not a soul was in sight.
As we walked to the terminal, I thought: "Something's not right".
I couldn't believe we'd be forgotten, too,
Like the Korean Veterans who we all knew.
They were first to fight an unpopular war;
Over 50,000 dead, Missing: 8000 more.
They were quickly forgotten, their deeds cast aside,
No tribute to those who so gallantly fought, those who died.
The Vietnam Veteran's fate was as bad, if not worse,
Their welcome home was spiteful, more often a curse.
Press, protestors and politics held the public in sway;
Our troops were villains, the bad guys, doing wrong every day.
Ostracized and criticized, our troops took the fall,
For doing their best, at their governments call.
(I was there for that holiday known fondly as TET,
An experience I surely will not soon forget.)
They were shunned and neglected; left to go their own way,
Even friends and relations didn't know what to say.
Not allowed to win at their grim, thankless task,
Was a little respect really too much to ask?
So last Spring I stood there again, reading names on that wall.
Thinking back to the years when they gave it their all.
Duty called and they went to that strange distant land;
And those that did not go... just can't understand.
People listened in silence to the Veteran's speeches,
About warriors, their feelings and the lessons war teaches.
A Poem about Comrades-in-Arms, a tearful goodbye.
One about reading names on that wall and wanting to cry,
And a song about "Soldiers of the Sky".
As those words were heard, not many eyes were dry.
All the Veterans were then asked: "please, to stand",
With a flickering candle in their hand.
Then we formed a line and faced the wall,
And the people were asked if they could, maybe, thank us all.
They started slowly at first, some reserved, some shy.
Then more and more came and soon all would walk by.
Old and young shook our hands as they passed through the line,
And said: "Good job", "We thank you", "You really did fine".
A small girl who couldn't have been much more than five,
Looked up at us and said: "I'm glad you came back alive".
Those expressions were wonderful, I felt ten feet tall.
But the words "Welcome Home" were the greatest of all.
The years melted away as we stood there that night.
We felt honored, respected, everything was all right.
There were no bands and no marching, but I cared not at all.
‘Cause I got My Parade there, that night, by The Wall.
Frank J. Montoya, CW3, USA, Retired
9th Infantry Division, Vietnam, 1967-’68
The Minute Man stood guard at his lonely post,
His trusty musket by his side.
There would be no holiday at home this year;
No time to spend with his loving bride.
The Redcoats were rapidly closing in,
Rifle shots could be heard not far away.
The troops were hungry, tired and clothed in rags,
But they knew that victory would be theirs... someday .
Valley Forge (December, 1777)
The battle had stalled, he had time to rest,
The Autumn sun peeking through the quiet haze.
There was talk of peace, but the Doughboy knew,
He would not be home for the Holidays.
He longed to leave his muddy trench,
But gas fumes lingered in the morning air.
He had barely survived that last attack,
When Christmas came, would he still be there?
France (October, 1918)
It was a quiet Sunday on that peaceful Isle.
As Diplomats talked in Washington, far away.
Not warned, not prepared, for a sneak attack,
The faithful soon would go to church, to pray.
But the calm was shattered by the blast of bombs,
And thousands died on land or in ships that day,
Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941)
It was Christmas Eve, the tree was glowing bright,
But it quickly dimmed when the sad news came.
Their son had given his life to liberate
A small Pacific Island that had no name.
Micronesia (December, 1944)
They strained to hear the drone of planes,
But the sky above was a storm-filled gray.
Short on food and ammo, they could but hope and pray,
Trapped in Bastogne... on Christmas Day.
Belgium (December, 1944)
This is "Frozen Chosen", that’s for sure",
Said the youthful Sergeant of Marines.
His troops were huddled ‘round a wispy fire,
Eating Christmas meal: Combat Ration Beans.
A Corporal spoke: "I’ll soon be going home."
"My tour is up next month", a Private said.
How could they know or even guess...
That by New Year’s Day they would all be dead.
Korea (December, 1952)
They patrolled the jungles to seek the foe.
Snipers and land mines would kill and maim.
Young men fighting for a doubtful cause,
But serving bravely and proudly, just the same.
Choppers brought them in until darkness fell.
The wounded, the dying.... all passed this way.
The doctors and nurses worked through the night,
Hoping some would survive through Christmas Day.
Vietnam (December, 1967)
And it is sad that even in times of peace,
Service to Country calls for sacrifice:
More than two hundred and forty brave Marines
By a terrorists’ bomb... were made to pay the price.
Beirut (October, 1983)
But we must not forget that Freedom is not free,
And that Love of Liberty will take its toll:
Seventeen young sailors gave up their lives,
When cowards attacked the Destroyer Cole.
Yemen (October, 2000)
Our hearts still ache today from shock and pain,
Caused by the vicious attacks upon our shore;
By those that would destroy our way of life,
Yet who were warmly welcomed at our door.
(America, September 11, 2001)
We have met the challenge, we must go the course,
And now many homes will be missing the eldest son,
Or the father or daughter who has gone to serve,
To perform a solemn duty that must be done.
Americans are stationed throughout the world,
They bring good will to each and every land.
Today they fight in Iraq and in Afghanistan
Defending Freedom and the Rights of Man,
Christmas will be lonely away from home,
But their cause is just, and they understand.
--Frank J. Montoya
Columbia soared with pride up to the sky.
To seek that which we most constantly pursue.
The search for knowledge, man’s most noble quest,
Was first in the minds of the Columbia’s crew.
Seven daring astronauts went up that day.
As they went aboard they smiled and waved so happily.
They faced their task with faith and confidence,
They faced the risks and the danger unflinchingly.
Their mission was complete, their research done,
They were headed home, minutes more to go,
When Columbia exploded mysteriously,
And thousands of pieces fell to the ground below.
The skies of Texas wept that day,
As debris rained down on timberland and field.
And ‘round the world people wept as well,
As they watched in shock, as their senses reeled.
The courage and spirit of these valiant souls,
Leaves a legacy that we cannot ignore.
Their devotion to duty and their sacrifice
Will be remembered and honored forevermore.
They will be renowned as heroes,
As were comrades who, before them, did also fall.
And now seven new names will be added
To the Astronaut’s Memorial Wall.
We may never know what caused this tragedy;
Was it accident, or what man failed to do?
But as we mourn our dead, we must pick up their torch,
We must forge ahead, as they would want us to.
If we look up to the Southern Skies,
They will seem brighter in a different way.
It is the Spirit of Columbia and her crew,
Looking down on us... forever... day by day.
-Frank J. Montoya
On January 31st 1968 the Lunar New Year Holiday Truce was violated by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. The "TET Offensive" as it came to be known, was waged at an enormous loss of human life. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong dead totaled over 45,000. America and its allies suffered 4,300 killed,
16,000 wounded and over 1000 missing. Civilian dead totaled over 15,000 with nearly 2 million refugees.
There would be a holiday truce, the war would stop.
The Lunar New Year would be observed, as in the past;
But TET turned out to be a great surprise.
The Communists broke the truce... it could not last..
Rockets and mortars were launched in the early dawn,
By both Viet Cong Forces and the NVA.
The walls of the American Embassy were breached as well;
All Military Bases and major cities were attacked that day.
Thousands of South Vietnamese would soon be killed,
It was the bloodiest offensive of the war to date.
Over 6000 died in the city of Hue alone,
And American Military losses were also great.
Who can forget that night and that early morn.
When the rockets fell and all were mobilized.
They took defensive positions along the berm,
And waited for fate to decide if they lived or died.
When daylight came they stared in wonderment,
At bodies lying helter-skelter by the score.
Claymore mines had taken their goodly share,
And the Concertina Wire had caught many more.
At Khe Sanh our Marines remained under siege,
And fought hand to hand combat on Hill 881.
NVA regulars attacked in waves, relentlessly,
But our artillery finally forced them to break and run.
The Embassy attack "on American Soil" had made its point.
The media now said that the war was unwinnable.
"The tide has turned!" the protestors cried,
And being "Anti-War" was now most respectable.
But for the many who survived that grim campaign,
That holiday will forever live in memory.
And still today at times, from those days long past,
TET comes back again, to haunt their reverie.
Frank J. Montoya
9th Infantry Division, Vietnam, 1967-1968
They hear the bugle call: Assembly,
And they gather ‘round, as in times before.
Most days they’re at least a thousand strong,
At times there are many hundreds more.
They come from each and every walk of life:
The rich, the poor, the homeless too.
But they all share one great and common trait:
They fought for Freedom..... for me and you.
Most of them are up in years,
For they date way back to World War II.
Many served in Korea, many more in Vietnam
And from the Gulf War, maybe just a few.
Their artificial limbs are left behind,
Their wheelchairs, canes and crutches too.
They’ll not be needed where they go,
For there, all are well and whole, as good as new.
"Attention! Answer when your name is called!"
They hear the Sergeants’ loud and urgent cry.
And they quietly move to form rank and file,
At that long last Roll Call in the sky.
"Washington, Inouye, Gomez, Smith!".
"Here, Sarge", they answer, one by one.
They salute, then turn to start their final march,
And slowly fade away into the setting sun.
The American Veteran population decreased by 560,000 in FY 2001.
Veterans under 45 years of age constituted 21 percent of the total veteran population;
veterans 45 to 64 years old, 41 percent, and veterans 65 or older, 38 percent.
(Dept of Veterans Affairs Statistical Data)
Many months had passed without a word,
Then the call from ‘Frisco brought them joy.
Their son had been fighting in South Vietnam;
They would finally hear from their darling boy.
After speaking with Mom, Jimmy talked to Dad,
He said: "Dad, I’ll be home in a day or two.
But I have a friend that is here with me,
I want to bring him home to stay with me and you."
His father said: "Of course your friend can come,
He’ll have a few days rest, while he’s passing through.
Then when he’s gone, we can sit and talk.
We want to spend a lot of time, alone with you."
"But Dad," said Jimmy, "You don’t understand,
My friend was wounded, he was hurt real bad.
He lost an arm and a leg, he has no one else.
His sister died last year, she was all he had.
I want to bring him home, to live with us."
But his father said: "This we just can’t do;
Our home would be changed, our lifestyle too.
We have our lives to live.... and so do you.
Such a burden would be too much to bear.
Your friend will survive, as so many have before.
There are VA Hospitals and Nursing Homes;
Those places can help him, so much more."
Jimmy said goodby, nothing more was heard.
Then two days later, the police did call.
The message was grim: Their son was dead;
It was suicide... caused by a deadly fall.
When the grieving parents came to claim their son.
They could not believe what their eyes did see.
Jimmy’s arm was missing from the elbow down,
And his leg was gone from just above the knee.
Now they understood what Jim had tried to say.
The truth would haunt them every night and day:
There was no friend.... there had never been.
"The Friend" was Jim, himself, who did so hope and pray,
To be accepted and to be welcomed... home... to stay.
Frank J. Montoya, CW3, USA, Retired
9th Infantry Division, Vietnam, 1967-68
Who gave us the right to Life and Liberty,
As well as the Pursuit of Happiness?
Who gave us the right to speak our mind,
To say what we think, and nothing less?
Who gave us the right to worship
That which we deem sacred and revere?
And who was it that said it, loud and clear?
We will not be plagued by Want.. nor Fear.
Our Forefathers boldly conceived these rights,
They are part of our Nation’s history;
And for the last two hundred years and more,
None have possessed more rights than we.
But we must not forget those whose gallantry
Has secured these freedoms we so adore.
Their deeds have ensured our way of life,
So we may enjoy our Liberties evermore.
Were it not for the price they did bravely pay,
Could we congregate at Church or City Hall?
Would we have a choice on election day?
Would we be allowed to vote--or to pray-- at all?
The Minuteman falling at Lexington,
Was the first to sustain our Liberty,
And the Doughboy who lies in Flanders Field
Gave his life in order to keep us free.
On D-Day many a soldier died
So we could have our say with impunity,
And today we can choose where we wish to live
Thanks to a Sailor lost in the Coral Sea.
The Bomber Crew who did not return,
The Marine under siege on a barren hill,
The Patrol that was ambushed on a jungle trail,
Or trapped in snow by winter’s deadly chill.
Those entombed in sunken ships at Pearl;
Prisoners who were starved to skin and bone;
The millions who were called to take up arms,
And the thousands whose fate is still unknown.
They are the ones who have guaranteed
Those freedoms promised so long ago.
To take our rights for granted would be to derogate
The faith and courage they all did show.
We must never abuse, misuse nor desecrate
These precious treasures we cherish so.
Liberty’s Light has never beamed so bright,
And thanks to all who serve...it will forever glow!
-Frank J. Montoya
Some said: "Don't go, it will made you sad".
Some said: "Go see it, it's not that bad".
I thought for a moment and began to remember
That fateful day in late December.
Twenty five hours in flight and here I am,
In Vietnam, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
One of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines.
Old Career Men like me, quite a lot in their teens.
Asking: "Why am I here? Full of doubt, full of fear
Of this "different" war. Will I last for a year?"
Who is the enemy, whom do we fight?
A shadow in a Starlight Scope, seen in the night.
Charlie's here, Charlie's there, seldom heard, seldom seen,
Not much more than a blip on a green radar screen.
Each night the rockets and mortars made hit after hit,
And the heat and the dust... or the rain... never quit.
You saw people hurt, you saw good friends die,
You saw many a tear, you heard many a sigh.
A day in Vietnam seemed as long as a year,
But at last you "got short" and your DEROS drew near,
And you prayed for the day that the noise you heard
Was the jet engine sound of your own "Freedom Bird".
The day I hit 'Frisco: Not a happy occasion.
My uniform brought only smirks, sneers and derision.
"Hey folks, I'm back, I made it, I'm okay".
Their looks said: "So what, Who cares, Go away".
Yes, some said: "Dont go, it's best to forget".
But I know that for many... it's not over yet.
So I thought: Hey, why not, it's been twenty years,
So long since the pain, so long since the fears.
I went and I looked, and I stood tall with pride.
We gave it our best, didn't win but We tried.
Most of us made it, but too many died.
Yes, I looked at That Wall, and I touched it, and cried.
Over Fifty Eight Thousand, Americans all,
Names engraved on that cold, unforgettable wall.
Brave men and women answered Liberty's call,
And fell, so that Freedom itself would not fall
Frank J. Montoya, CW3, USA, Retired
9th Infantry Division, Vietnam, 1967-68
A Squad on a mission to search and destroy.
A Bomber Crew making a run to Hanoi.
A Gunner on the Mekong in a gunboat of steel.
A Green Beret, a Medic, a Navy SEAL.
A Marine on a hillside at the Siege of Khe Sanh.
A Chopper Crew at a landing zone...the list goes on.
They went forth to do battle and stayed where they fell.
Or spent their last desperate days in a dark prison cell.
They were called on to serve in that strange distant land
For reasons some of them never did quite understand.
The support and respect they would need to pull through
Came too little, too late, and was expressed by too few.
It's so sad there were many like these left behind.
Although no longer with us, they are still on our mind.
Each one is a hero, every brave, valiant soul.
For these are the members of THE LAST PATROL.
Their spirits cry out in anguish: "Why can't WE return home?"
As through the jungles and highlands they restlessly roam.
They haunt the rubber plantations, the rice paddies too,
The streets of Saigon, the Delta, all those places they knew;
Like the Ton Son Nhut Airfield, R & R at Vung Tau,
The Repple Depot at Long Binh....just vague memories now.
A flag with a Silhouette honors the POW, the MIA.
And we search for them still, even up to this day.
What's the number of bracelets that many people yet wear,
Bearing names of our warriors that we left over there?
Will they ever return? No... Not likely, not now.
But their loved ones still hope that maybe, someday, somehow,
A discovery could close this sad chapter of life,
And bring peace to parents, a sibling, a child or a wife.
If as a Nation, we could say: "You did not die in vain.
We gratefully honor your sacrifice, your courage and pain".
Perhaps then those sad souls could rest, no more have to roam
And our LAST PATROL, in spirit, could finally be welcomed home.
Frank J. Montoya, CW3, USA, Retired. 9th Infantry Division Vietnam, 1967-’68
It seemed like just a week ago,
But it had been a long and lonely year
Since he had gone "Over There" to fight in France.
Oh! How I wished that he were here.
"No letter today", the Postman said.
"No "V" Mail from Europe, it’s been a week or more".
I sat silently, my Blue Star Banner in my hand,
And prayed for the day he’d come through the door.
Through tear-filled eyes I read the telegram again,
And my mind was numb as I tried and tried
To think of an answer when the children asked:
"Where is Iwo Jima, Mom? Is that where Daddy died?"
We were young and foolish, just turned eighteen.
But we wouldn’t wait; he had been called to go.
His son would be waiting when he came back home.
He was in Korea, fighting in the cold and snow.
I suffered fearful days and tearful nights.
He’d be in South Vietnam for three months more.
We’d been apart four times in eighteen years,
But this was harder to bear than the ones before.
We met at Karen’s for coffee the other day.
Her Steven had fought in Kuwait’s burning sand.
Martha’s Kevin left for Iraq two months ago.
We have formed a kinship that we think is grand.
His orders finally came down yesterday,
We will soon be parted, once again.
I’ll join other sad and lonely wives,
And he’ll join other brave, courageous men.
There will be less joy this Christmastime.
He won’t be here to help us trim the tree.
But we will celebrate, as he would want us to,
And I’ll save a special gift for him... from me.
Where will he go? How long will he stay away?
He will serve with honor, wherever it may be.
And we will wait for him with pride... and prayer,
As he makes the world safe for his family.
-Frank J. Montoya
There stands amongst us a man who has faced the foe.
He saw his duty clear and he did bravely go
To protect our freedom in its time of need.
Should we call him hero? We should indeed.
Who is this man that fought to defend our land
In steaming jungles, frozen mountains and burning sand?
He served on ships, in tanks, on land and sea,
In submarines, in airplanes, and in mud....up to his knee.
What were his roots? From whence did he hail?
Through countless missions and battles, never once did he fail.
He came from all walks of life, every creed, every race,
And served with honor, no matter what color his face.
He was a rich man, a poor man, from big cities and farms.
But he had only one purpose when taking up arms.
Our way of life was in peril, so conquer he must;
For in all of our wars, our cause... it was just.
When we think of our Liberty which we cherish, so dear,
Remember who paid the price so it would always be here.
He left home and hearth proudly, to do his own part,
With love for a Peaceful America deep down in his heart.
So honor to those who served, who fought, were wounded or fell.
To the Prisoners of War and those still missing as well.
And honor to our women, who in their own right,
Have served distinctly with courage and spirit so bright.
They are Veterans all, deserving of praise
And also respect for the rest of their days.
True Allegiance they pledged, to their Flag, one by one.
And they were true to their words, our colors never did run.
Let's salute this Veteran as we would a Flag that's unfurled,
For he's the reason Our Country is the best in the world.
Frank J. Montoya
They left in high spirits, when called on to fight.
Their cause it was just, their future looked bright.
Their mission: to help a small new nation stay free
Of the Communist threat. What nobler deed could there be?
But public opinion would not let them prevail.
Bad press and protestors their cause did assail.
Our elected officials could not see eye to eye.
Their discord fueled anti-war feelings, already too high.
Students held rallies and draft cards were burned.
Military service and tradition were hatefully spurned.
Would-be draftees to Europe and Canada went.
Flags were burned, tempers flared, fatal shots fired at Kent.
Who could have known what that ill fated venture would cost?
More than ten wasted years, fifty eight thousand lives lost.
Was it wrong? Who can tell? But our troops could not choose.
Duty called and they went, right or wrong, win or lose.
They were not always cast in a favorable light,
As the war was brought home on TV every night.
They were heroes no more, but called villains instead.
"Get out of Viet-Nam!" was what half the world said.
They came home, but their welcome was too much to bear.
They were shunned and ignored, cursed at here, spat at there.
Their spirit was gone, their morale never so low.
They had given their all, all for naught, it seemed so.
There's a wall now in Washington that lists all who died.
But those that came back were hurt too... deep down inside.
For spite, scorn and indifference leave scars that are real,
And those Wounds to the Spirit take a long, long time to heal.
Frank J. Montoya, CW3, USA, Retired
9th Infantry Division, Vietnam 1967-’68
Once more they go, to fight on foreign shore,
As thay have proudly gone, so many times before.
They go wherever duty calls, as in the past,
To ensure that our Freedoms will forever last.
In the air, at sea, on land. In Iraq or in Afghanistan,
Our Troops will serve with honor, do the best they can.
And terrorism will never destroy the way we live,
Not as long as they have one more life to give.
They join the daring Doughboys who fought the Hun,
In the hedgerows and trenches of World War One;
And our gallant GI Joes, who made the Axis run,
Who struck down the Swastika and the Rising Sun.
They are part and parcel of those who boldly fought
The war in Korea which was, sadly, soon forgot;
And who served in Vietnam, that most unpopular war,
Who suffered wounds to the spirit that left such an ugly scar.
They seek the same oasis in the desert sand,
As did the Gulf War heroes in that dry, parched land.
Their modern warships sail on the same Seven Seas
As did the PT Boats, the Tin Cans and the LST’s.
In fearless formation, their jets soar through the skies,
As did the Flying Fortresses, the Mustangs and the PBY’s,
They march in step with the millions who waved goodbye,
Who left home with this promise: "We will do...or die".
We call them Veterans when their job is done.
They come back older and wiser when the battle’s won;
With tales to tell of times both good and bad.
Some stories are happy, but oftentimes they’re sad.
Let us give our thanks, today, to them... one and all;
To those here among us, still standing proud and tall;
To the POW’s and to the MIA’s, as well
And to those who went bravely forth... who fought... and fell.
-Frank J. Montoya
(The 3rd Armored Cavalry Brigade, The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team,
The 10th Combat Support Hospital and
The 571st Air Ambulance Med-Evac Company,
have departed Fort Carson and are presently
serving with Coalition Forces in Iraq)
We have sadly said our last goodbye,
And with deployment orders in their hands,
More than 11,000 brave, courageous souls
Will proudly serve on distant desert sands.
Our hopes and prayers go with our troops,
As they march off to heed their commanders’ call.
May their deeds be guided by righteousness,
And may they come back safely, one and all.
We pray the conflict will be swift and short,
If fate decrees that they must go to fight.
May their leaders be men of vision and quality,
And may their casualties be very few and light.
Let them not be victims of an unpopular war.
Let them not be subject to scorn and indifference,
As were those that served in Korea and in Vietnam,
Who had no one to speak out in their defense.
Our hearts go out to the families,
As they anxiously wait with fervent prayers,
That their loved ones’ absence will not be long,
And that theirs will be among those that Heaven spares.
Our soldiers depart with pride and spirits high,
And if destiny dictates that they must face the foe...
That is what they have been trained to do,
And they will do their best, this we surely know.
-Frank J. Montoya
In the coming weeks and months over 11,000 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom will be
returning to their homes and families at Fort Carson, in Fountain and Colorado Springs.
Sadly, many of their comrades came home before them.
Those that came back early were met by grieving families and by a grateful community.
They will be remembered and honored for their brave and faithful service
and for making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Freedom..
They were the casualties of that war.
Those that survived will soon be coming home.
We’re coming home! We’re coming home!
Our tour is up, we’ve done our part.
Fresh troops will go to take our place;
We wish them "best of luck", with all our heart.
Our Country called and off we went,
To liberate an oppressed, unstable land.
But so many fellow soldiers lost their lives,
In Iraqi village, town and desert sand.
We’ll soon be landing in the ‘Springs,
We feel such joy but there is also fear.
Will everything be as it was before?
It has been a very long and lonely year.
Will we find things changed when we get home?
Only the passage of time will tell.
Have the months and miles made a difference?
But then perhaps, we too, have changed as well.
As we join our loved ones once again,
We pray all things will be the same.
Will we be as close as we were back then?
Will little Bobby remember his Daddy’s name?
A "welcome home" parade will be held downtown.
We will march so proudly and stand so tall.
We will honor Freedom and Home and Family,
For these are values we cherish most of all.
Our Country, our Flag, our way of life.
For these we fought... for these our friends did fall.
Frank J. Montoya