Era: In Country, Stateside - by Marianne Bogel, LTJG, USNR '66-'68

I'm told I'm not a Vietnam Veteran . . .
Because I was never "In Country," in Vietnam,
I was "Stateside."

Stateside hospital nurse, what could I possibly know of war?
After all, I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was Stateside.

I had no Vietnam Service Ribbon, and no "DEROS,"
No date of expected return from overseas,
Because I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was "Stateside."

They say Vietnam had a smell, a stench of death . . .
Things seen, that can never be eradicated from memory.
All these I don't know, I couldn't know,
Because I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was Stateside.

So what are the smells I smell? The sights etched into my memory?
Bloody bodies, pus, maggots, bone fragments, shredded muscle,
Gangrene, pseudomonas, dead flesh, exposed brains, "gorks". . .
But they couldn't be real because I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was Stateside.

Klink, donk, the sounds of shrapnel falling into a basin.
Bloody hands, gurneys, circle 'lectric beds, filthy casts - how can this be?
Because I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was Stateside.

I don't remember your name - I can't see your face.
Anesthetized, faceless, nameless bodies, draped in a sea of green linen -
I don't have to face your pain.
Endless hours, weary feet - but how can this be?
I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was Stateside.

Nightmares, night sweats, anger, flashbacks,
Memories of 17 and 18 year old Marines missing half their brains,
"Jarheads" in a true sense -
I'm not allowed to feel pain, it isn't valid.
After all, I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was Stateside.

Tet '68 - Marines in bloody fatigues - Leslie Stephen Ayres,
My friend, is dying at Khe Sanh - on TV.
It's safer not to wear a uniform on the Boston Common, in public,
Because I am not there, "In Country,"
I am Stateside.

The colors of war - Golden yellow maple leaves,
Raindrops and rainbows, bright yellow school buses,
Black and white and grey of TV,
Black and white and grey of a blizzard outside my Operating Room window;
Operating Room green, blood red -
Did I see you wounded on TV a few days ago?
But that was the tropics - how could this be?
I am not "In Country,"
I am Stateside.

Glorious sun, flags flapping, planes flying, booth buzzing -
It's Air Fair time again.
"Tell me about the Vietnam Women's Memorial,"
This Major of the State Guard said, and by the way,
"Where were you in Vietnam?"
My stomach churns. I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was Stateside.

He laughed at me, this Major of the State Guard -
He laughed at me, this veteran with three campaign clusters
on his Vietnam Service Ribbon.
"Wounded were in pretty good condition when they were returned Stateside,"
This chopper pilot pronounced, "after all," he said,
"I was there, 'In Country',
You were only Stateside."

In truth, it was the most seriously wounded that came home -
The most mangled, the most damaged had their tickets home.
I heard somewhere that only those who died "In Country" are on the Wall -
What of the many who died after coming home?
Was their suffering and sacrifice less because they did not die "In Country,"
They died Stateside?

I wonder, how many clusters would I have on my Vietnam Service Ribbon,
If I had such a ribbon?
How many campaigns were there, during my two years in the OR?
How many firefights? How many battles?
But I don't have a Vietnam Service ribbon
Because I wasn't there, "In Country,"
I was Stateside.

No, I wasn't shot at - never heard the crash of mortar shells, except on TV.
I didn't wear "slants" or jungle boots.
I never met the VC, didn't get "jungle rot," and I don't know all the jargon,
But I am a Vietnam Veteran,
and I am still waiting for my "DEROS" date,
Because I am still here, "In Country, Stateside."

A poem written by:
Marianne Bogel, LTJG NC USNR 10/'66-9/'68
Operating Room, Chelsea Naval Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

Copyright 1991

© LTJG Marianne Bogel NC USNR served in the Operating Room, Chelsea Naval Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 1966 to 1968.