Digital Tradition Mirror

After the War

After the War
(Tim Irvine)

My name is Billy Johnson. Indiana's my state.
I turned 21 back in '68.
Drafted into the army, sent to Fort Leonard Wood.
When I left my hometown, I prayed it wasn't for good.

His name was Hector Gonzalez, from San Jose.
We got stuck with KP the very first day.
After peelin' potatoes for hours on end,
Hector and I were the closest of friends.

When they put us on a troop jet, and flew us to 'Nam,
Some guy stood up in the back and read the twenty-third psalm.
He talked about walkin' through that valley of death.
I said, "Hector I'm scared." He said, "Just take a deep breath."

When we got off the plane and our assignments came in,
I got sent to Pleiku, he got sent to Long Binh.
He hugged me goodbye and turned around at the door,
And he said, "Don't forget look me up, after the war."

About three months later, he wrote me a letter.
He said some days are rough and some days are better,
And a kid named Gilardo we knew from basic training,
Was missing in action up north. "By the way, I meant what I said before:
Don't forget to look me up, after the war."

I was out on patrol in the spring of '69,
I stepped on a trip wire, took some shrapnel from a mine.
Spent the rest of my tour in a hospital bed,
With a pin in my leg, and a plate in my head.

On the plane ride home, I thought of all I'd been through.
I'd lived nine lives and I was just 22.
And I thought about Hector and what I'd promised before,
And I planned to look him up, right after the war.

Twenty-one years later in Washington, DC,
I was there on vacation with my family.
I went out to that park to see that wall,
And face up to a past I didn't want to recall.

First, I looked for that guy that Hector wrote me about,
He wasn't on the list, I guess he lucked out.
Then my eyes caught a name at the top of the page,
Corporal Hector Gonzalez, 21 years of age.

My throat got tight. My mouth went dry.
I looked up at that wall and I started to cry.
And the memories hit me like incoming fire,
From a time when we were so-o-o young,
Hector wavin' at me from the door,
Sayin', "Don't forget to look me up, after the war."

I lay awake some nights. I can still hear the guns,
Still hear the screams, I can still taste the blood.
I can still see Hector wavin' goodbye from the door,
Sayin', "Don't forget to look me up, after the war."

Copyright Tim Irvine

Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

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