All posts by tom skiens

Know them

Know them

Know them as tears fill their eyes at the sight of a child while memories repeat a vision of  dead, militated, burnt children cast beside the road to Baghdad.

Know them as they smile while talking about their best friend dying.

Know them as you discover they sleep on the floor and run nightly patrols.

Know them as a slight disagreement explodes into a killing rage and the vet is stepping backwards seeking his knives and guns.

Know them as they get and lose as many different jobs as they have years separated from the war.

Know them as they condemn themselves for the smallest mistake because in their world a mistake will  kill someone.

Know them as they display anti-social and addictive behavior.

Know them as they struggle with borderline personality disorders and have extreme difficulties with interpersonal relationships.

Know them who suffer the pain as they pronounce that others deserve veterans benefits more than they do.

Know them as you ask when they fought a major battle and they say, “Last night.”

Know them as they walk in the woods while keeping a proper spacing between people they are with and constantly registering the next closest spot for cover and concealment.

Know them as they drive white knuckled, holding back the urge to “SHOUT,SHOW,AND SHOOT” at the driver who gets too close on the highway and fight the desire to swerve away from anything that might contain an IED

Know them as they travel across six states to help a friend but they would not cross the street to save their own ass.

Know them as they will not come to you for help. They are to proud.

Know them as you would your own. Provide for them for the rest of their lives the mental, medical and social tools  that reflect our ability to honor the veteran.

Know them.

Poem by Tom Skiens, with shout, show and shoot line by two tour
Afghanistan vet James Dowmen

And a B-52 for you

By Tom Skiens

In October 1968 I got a punji stick in my left knee while conducting a combat assault with Charley Company of the 4/3 Inf. I found the punji stick by a large gray moss and debris covered rock I was hiding behind.

I was hiding behind the rock because that’s what I always did when I reached the destination of a combat assault. I would get off the chopper, hide behind a rock or tree, or a piece of bamboo or an anthill or a chick dressed up like a rice paddy Dyke on a motorcycle. I could hide behind a single blade of grass, Or you or him. I was determined to hide behind something because that’s how the army had trained me.

Even though I was an expert at hiding I always liked to be on the first lift of a combat assault. Maybe then I would catch some shit and get out of the bush in a half-way, sort of respectful manner. It never occurred to me that I could die again. Hell, I had already died once.

So I am hiding behind this rock covered with debris from the two B-52s who, 1/2 hour earlier, had dropped half their load in this huge valley that had its mouth pointing in a northeasterly direction.

The B-52’s did a 180 and dropped the rest of their load in the valley. “C” and “D” companies were far enough away to be safe but close enough to be impressed. We could feel the shaking of the earth like God taking command of the planet with a completely controlling hand and moving it about. The sound was a deep, deep rumble unlike the sharp smacking sound of artillery or the air moving freight train sound of 16 inch rounds as they passed overhead. This sound was God awful death from 40,000 feet. Hundreds of bombs going off individually and combining into one move the earth rumble.
Continue reading And a B-52 for you



By: Tom Skiens

Have you heard about Betty
She’s a bouncer from the land of ville s
The first time that I met her
Was at the bottom of an old ROK hill

The ROK’s long since departed
some wire and Betty remain
The point diddy bopped right over the top
but not Scully and Hall, what a shame

Its a hot date, our first time with Betty
She dropped ten men in a row
The eleventh in line was Zimmerman
learning things he didn’t want to know

The Zimmer Man and I
Well we got to walk the line
I be judging the size of Betty’s holes
On the radio with the Captain all the time

We be needing two choppers for the dust off
One bird can’t lift all this weight
We have two that are in no hurry
They be lined up at the pearly gate

The Zimmer Man and I
We be prancing down the line
You with the 2″ hole in the shoulder
Grab your gear and double time

Betty’s got one moaning
Another s  losing his mind
And another with a face full of shrapnel
Froze up standing his place in line

The Zimmer Man and I
Doing shit we never knew
Rifling through Rucks and Pancho’s
Getting ready for dust off #2

I don’t think  I like Betty
She’s a fickle bitch at  best
She jumps right up, 3 feet or so
And then fuck’s you in the chest

She will blow your legs to the left
And the rest of you to the right
She will blow your balls into the next day
And posses the souls of the night

With special thanks to;

Marc Levy, Mentor, editor and widely published author.

Betty:  M-16 A1 antipersonnel mine. When tripped, a Bouncing Betty jumps out of the ground 3 to 5 feet before exploding.
Villes:  G.I. slang for village
land of villes: authors phrase to represent Vietnam
ROK hill: A Republic of Korea base camp built on a hill.
ROK:  A feared mercenary from the Republic of Korea.
diddy bop: GI slang for walked or passed by