Pleiku Jacket (poem)
By Thomas Brinson
Once you've experienced the horrors of war, it seems you never can escape it. "There's Always Something There to Remind Me," as the early 60s song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David goes. Yesterday morning, for example, I was dumbstruck by an unexpected sharp reminder of what I experienced in the Central Highlands of Vietnam almost 42 years ago during the brutal Tet Offensive. There I was in Bread Alone, one of the tonier of tourist-filled establishments on the main street of my new hometown in Woodstock, NY, with a bagel and a latte. As I stirred raw sugar into the latte, I glanced back at an elegant 40-something woman placing her order.
BAM-POW - the air swooshed out of me as if I had been punched in the solar plexus. She was wearing a faded-green satin jacket emblazoned with the words, "Pleiku, Vietnam." One of the typical GI slogans of the day, "When I die I'll go to heaven because I've spent my time in hell!" encircled the colored embroidered image of South Vietnam.
I approached her, "Excuse me, but I ran supplies to Pleikiu in late 67, early 68. Are you the daughter of a Vet?"
"Oh, I'm sorry," she replied. "No, I went to high school in Manhattan in the early 80s, and there was a thrift store near the school that had lots of these jackets. A bunch of us bought them and wore them. We thought they were cool. I've kept mine after all these years and wear it from time to time."
Cool! ??? What could I say? Nothing really. So I wished her a good day and went out into the bright sunlight of a beautiful morning, deeply breathing away the dark images from that faraway place that never is too far away in memory.
- Thomas Brinson