To Richard Smith
Richard Smith, 1948-2002
He knew a life of privilege
And saw injustice around him;
He knew the obligation of brotherhood
And joined his comrades in hell.

He knew the pain of combat
And saw his neighbors fall;
He knew the anguish of survival
And buried it in his soul.

He knew a friend who would listen
And shared his tormented heart;
He knew the release of death
And joined his brothers in peace.

Richard Smith had been a neighbor and schoolmate when we were kids in Haddonfield.  I heard from him a few years ago and we began corresponding via email, sharing memories of Haddonfield and of the Vietnam War. 

I was saddened to hear that Richard had passed away on April 15, 2002.  I don't think he would mind if I shared a few of his thoughts about being a Vietnam veteran...

"Combat veterans from Haddonfield were kinda rare.  I really think that's part of the reason I went.  We grew up so privileged, how could we send all those Delaware Township and Camden [boys] to die?  I thought I had an obligation to go."

"Well here I am crying again, pretty idiotic for a 47 year old, but then I've just gone through over 20 years without shedding a tear.  It's not unusual from what I've read of other combat vets.  But every time I acknowledge my own pain, I feel guilty because so many have suffered more."

Return to Swartz/Roller Poetry .

Copyright © 2002 BJ Swartz
Updated 28 April 2002