I have slandered many - Because we left them over there -
Then I got the message - From the one with thin and graying hair -
He didn't want to be there - He feared reprisal on return -
He said something happened long ago - He would surely burn -
The runners and the agents - Did their best to reassure -
But his heart was fearful - His past not always pure -
Then the small Hanoi Official - Gave the reason for his fears -
He had deserted a comrade - Long ago on the field of tears -
Then he looked into my eyes - He said now he must be true -
"The deserted soldier that he fears - He says that man is you" -
My mind raced back in time - To the place they called Loc Ninh -
As I sat bleeding - He committed the Soldiers greatest sin -
I looked at the Vietnamese - Then I took the pen in hand -
I granted absolution - So he could come back to our land -
No one else can charge him - On this the law speaks well -
He may return to kith and kin - He has served his time in hell -
This was not a hard decision - At least not hard for me -
I am still the same Commander - This old man knew me to be -
I feel like the Pope of Warfare - When all is weighed for me to see -
You may debate his guilt or innocence - But absolution belongs to me -

Copyright 1998, by Mark A. Smith, Major, USA, Retired

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