Poem from Vietnam soldier finds family
Niles native Dominic Fennell was sorting through his father’s belongings recently when he found a letter addressed to his father, Larry Fennell, from a longtime neighborhood friend.
When he opened the envelope, a folded letter containing a now yellow and faded clipping was found. The clipping was a cut out copy of a poem Larry Fennell wrote while serving in Vietnam.
The poem was published in the Army newspaper and it was cut out by that neighborhood friend who had kept it all those years.
Dominic Fennell said no one in the family had ever seen or heard of the poem.
“I would like to thank Ray and Bonnie for preserving something that now means so much to our family,” Dominic wrote in an email to The Niles Times.
Larry Fennell served as a Seabee in the U.S. Navy for one year, seven months and eight days. He was honorably discharged May 8, 1974.
“If you ever had the pleasure of meeting Larry you would know that he was a man of few words, which creates the signifigance of this poem,” Dominic wrote.
Larry Fennell died Feb. 20, 2017, at Cleveland Metro Hospital from complications of a stroke. The last line of the poem says “Please remember me.”
“I’m certain Larry would have appreciated this to be used as a reminder of all who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Dominic wrote, before ending his email with “I love and miss you dad. Your son, Dominic.”
Dominic now lives in Fort Collins, Colo., with his daughter, Mazzy, 15. His aunt, Nancy Ritz, who is Larry Fennell’s sister, still lives in Niles, as does Larry’s father, George, 91, a World War II Navy veteran.
His poem reads:
“You know last night while standing guard I thought I’d write a poem
And tell it like it really is to all the folks back home.
You folks read all the papers and watch the tv shows
But even with all of that, not one of you really knows.
You hear the good side of all our battles, the enemies we kill
But you’ve never seen a buddy fall while charging up a hill.
At home you walk down the sidewalks, or in a crowded mall,
But here, brush on our jungle trails is so thick we have to crawl.
Back stateside you have bridges built, to go across a river,
But here in Nam we walk right in, and when it’s cold we shiver.
You’ve got air conditioners there, to cool your shop or den,
But over here it’s so damn hot, we think it’s hell we’re in.
At home you take your wife or girl, go out and dance all night,
But over here, we stand our guard, sometimes even stiff with fright.
Have you ever looked around and see the many things you’ve got?
Or once stopped to think the many things we’ve not.
You have cold beer and water, you have hot meals to eat,
Any one of those things to us would really be a treat.
And every day you take a walk down life’s easy path,
but I bet you’ve never had to go a month without a bath.
To you a bath is water, hot enough to make it steam,
To us it’s nothing more than a leech-infested stream.
You have no doubt been scared enough to think the end is near,
But I’ll bet you’ve not had to live a year in total fear.
You folks have got it easy compared to us across the sea,
But all any soldier asks of you is, “Please remember me.”