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Battlefield Memento
by John J. Dunphy

I recently learned of a Vietnam veteran whose battalion was overrun during a battle in the Ia Drang Valley. His company suffered a casaulty rate of over 90 per cent during a 24-hour period of hand-to-hand fighting.

In the early 1990s this man and a few other Ia Drang veterans returned to Vietnam and walked that long-ago battlefield. He wanted to find some memento of that conflict, such as shrapnel or a shell casing, to leave beside that panel of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - "The Wall" - that contains the names of his comrades killed during that battle.

But he found no war relics. Over the years nature had effaced all traces of that horrendous engagement. Beautiful flowers now bloomed where men had once died. Still, this veteran wanted some memento to lay at The Wall panel listing his fallen comrades.

next to names of war dead
pressed flowers
from their last battlefield


An excerpt from my new chapbook "Old Soldiers Fading Away" (ISBN 1-58998-409-9), published by Pudding House of Columbus, Ohio, USA. It is an anthology of previously-published haiku, senryu, haibun and sequences dealing with veterans, especially Vietnam veterans. For ordering information, drop me an e-mail.

Originally published in Modern Haiku XXXI:3; received Favorite Haibun of Issue Award

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