Vets Speak, Warrior Writers, 2

In honor of the amazing eight women and one man who organized Vets speak, (written about yesterday), I share poems from female veterans today excerpted from the book Visions of War, Dreams of Peace: Writing of Women in the Vietnam War, edited by Lynda Van Devanter and Joan A. Furey and published in 1991 at the end of this post as well as my own older essay about my father who served in Vietnam.

“She said she had been to Hell and because she had seen Hell, she was set apart. Between her and every normal human pleasure, every normal human enjoyment, must stand the wards of Scutari. She could never forget. She wrote the worlds again and again in private notes, on the margins of letters, on scraps of blotting paper whenever her hand lay idle, the phrased formed itself – “I can never forget.”

….”If there is any myth of women and war it is probably most evident in the rods of a New York publishing house editor who said in 1979, “What could a woman possible have to say about war, especially the Vietnam War?”

For centuries women have gone to war….

…. These women need to be heard. They know what war is.

Preface, xxi and xxiii


Do You Really Want to Know

Do you really want to know

How you can help me?

Then don’t turn your back on me

As if I was to blame!

You share in this too.

I did the dirty work,

The least you can do is

listen to me.

Bobbbie Trotter



Being a Vet is Like

Losing a Baby


Being a vet

Is like

Losing a baby.

No one says

Anything to you

And you don’t

Say anything to them.

Lily Lee Adams


“I needed to find other women who knew what I knew, and more. I needed to talk to women who had seen unspeakable things, who were without self-pity, who had faced the lairs and lunatics, who had survived all of it and, in surviving, made a difference.”

Gloria Emerson, Journalist


Dear Mom

Now please don’t panic

But just in case,

There are some things I should tell you.


I guess it’s pride in our individuality

Or self-doubt of our own womanhood

That makes it hard for mothers and daughters/

There’s a great mystery, I now know,

To being a mother.

Mothers are so close to life.

I must share with you.

I have been here almost a year now,

And so far as I know,

Every man who has died,

Had the same last word on his lips –


Bobbie Trotter.



The Friendship

Only Lasted

A Few Seconds


He said “Mom,

And I responded

And became her.

I never lied

To him.

And I couldn’t

Explain that to others.

I got all and more back.

But the friendship

Only lasted a few seconds.


And he called me Mary.

I wished she could

Be there for him.

I felt I was in

Second place,

But I did the

Best I could

And the friendship

Only lasted a few seconds.


And he told me,

“I don’t believe this,

I’m dying for nothing.”

The he died.

Again, the friendship

Only lasted a few seconds.

How can the World

Understand any of this?

How can I keep the

World from forgetting?

After all the friendship

Only lasts a few seconds.

Lily Lee Adams


I choose not to know

If my eggs are

Misshapen and withered

As the trees along the river

If snippets are hidden

In the coils of my DNA.

Marilyn McMahon


The aircraft was called a ‘dust-off’… It was an ordinary thing for a report to do, riding choppers collecting the wrecked. Once American, named John, was picked up for a head wound and lay on the floor, not dead or not alive. The medic could not stop the bleeding. There were never doors on the helicopters, so the wind moved his hair where the blood did not make it stick. It all becomes normal, the other correspondence, men, would say. In time, you’ll see. They lied.

Gloria Emerson

You Matter Mantras

  • Trauma sucks. You don't.
  • Write to express not to impress.
  • It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
  • Breathing isn't optional.

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