The Path of Least Resistance


I prefer “welcome home” to “thank you for your service”.

Agreeing to be used in Viet Nam was a choice

containing the benefit of less pain,

an easier path, avoiding jail, and not having to change my country


at a cost of a gnawing dissonance

grating on ears and conscience

like an open G chord on my guitar with one untuned string

on this fiftieth anniversary of My Lai

for every person ambushed, bombed, shot for no reason or made homeless

for every veteran who has taken his own life.


And realizing, at the Wall in Washington, when other veterans and I

met with a delegation of Vietnamese who had asked us to join them

in a humble request that our country assist them with the effects of Agent Orange,

not knowing that Veterans for Peace is a very small organization with no power


that a Wall to honor the Vietnamese dead would have to stretch 100 miles

from this wall to my family’s kitchen table in Richmond, Virginia

where my dad, a combat veteran of World War II

advised me not to join the army

because this thing just didn’t look right,

and because those people never did anything to us.


Douglas Nelson