First on the Field
By John Koelsch, Army
Writing Type: Poem
I have been first on the field of battle.
I have been the point of the spear.
I have been last to leave the field.
I have fought on fields chosen by others.
I have completed missions created by others.
I have paid the bill accrued by others.
I have carried my anger for over half a century.
I have isolated my soul in fear of harming others.
I have forsaken human touch to protect others.
I will fight for a better life for all.
I will not accept people treated as second class.
I will not accept a life where all are not equal.
Author's Note: In Vietnam I was on point for the battalion on two occasions where combat occurred. I was first on the field both times. I led my platoon defending Saigon during Mini-Tet in May 1968 which was the worst month of the entire war for American casualties. We defended the outer perimeter and were the tip of the spear. On two occasions I was last off the field with my Company. Once I was completely exposed as the last one on that side of the Saigon River fighting time to reach our chopper ride for home as a monsoon was hitting. An interesting experience sitting in the open door of a Huey, legs dangling, while the wind bounced us up and down ten feet at a time. On the second occasion we exited under fire. I blew our last claymores and was the last one on the last Huey out.