Back FROM The World: Vietnam Redux

This is the travelogue of my return to Vietnam, 47 years after my Army tour there. I was drafted in 1969 and served in Vietnam at the end of my 2-year hitch: 1970-71. Vietnam was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen–then or since. But like more than 2.5 million other young Americans, I experienced Vietnam in a mostly horrid way. Yet, even then, I suspected Vietnam, absent a war, would someday be a travel mecca.

In the 70’s, a very important piece of music–for me, at least–was Curtis Mayfield’s “Back To The World”, based on an expression and conversation topic that, for years, was ubiquitous in “‘Nam”.  “Back in the world” was where we all wanted to get. It was the allusion we used to stay whole and sane. It was home. Home in the richest, warmest, safest sense that our hearts and minds could conjure. Back in the world was everything that Vietnam, the war, the military was not.  We dreamt about it, bragged about it, longed for it. And everyone of us hoped we’d achieve it. But, of course, nearly 60,000 Americans did not.

Touring Vietnam is all the thing, these days. Russians, Chinese, Aussies, Europeans and Americans flock there for unspoiled scenery, good, cheap eats, exotic culture, outdoor adventure. And vets go to remember.  Now I return there, from the world.

Curtis Mayfield Lyrics “Back To The World”

Back in the world

Back in the world

Back in the world

Back in the world

Crawlin’ through the trees
Stuck in mud up to the knees

Fightin’ this damn war

Wonderin’ if the Lord knows what it’s for

Six long years stretch
And we boys was in a hell of a mess

I gotta keep my mind; take it slow

Fightin’ hard for what I don’t know

I wanna get back home, gotta get back home

Back to the world

I had a talk with little mom

Strenuous face as she began to hum

She said: Boy, it’s good to see ya

My prayers must’ve been with ya

And now that you’re back and done

Let me tell ya son
The war was never won
The war was never won

In these city streets everywhere
You gotta be careful where you move your feet; how you part your hair

Do you think that God could never forgive this life we live?
Back in the world
Back in the world

My, my, my, my
It’s so hard, it’s so hard, it’s so hard

This life is so hard

I’ve been beaten up and robbed

Soldier boy ain’t got no job

Back in the world

Had a long stretch of sacrifice

Gettin’ back home will be awful nice

Child your woman has long been gone

The doggone war just lasted too long

People don’t give a damn

People don’t give a damn

People don’t give a damn

So I’m standin’ here in future shock

It can give the mind an awful knock

Talkin’ ’bout hard times, hard times, hard times

Back in the world
Back in the world

Forgiveness instead of amnesty

Simple words that seem so clear to me

Forgive our country,
Forgive your man, wastin’ love for hate

Truth from honesty is true
We’d don’t seem to know what to do, do

Yeah, yeah, yeah
Back in the world