Artwork > Recent Work

Shadow of War
Shadow of War
oil on canvas
36 x 36

This piece was created during the early stages of the Ukraine war.

Fifty Years Later: The War America Wanted to Forget

Don Holladay

By the time I went,
there were no happy send offs,
no Johnny Comes Marching Home songs,
no welcome back hugs, no real thanks at all.
By the time I went,
they were burning draft cards,
marching in the streets,
giving fiery speeches, and
sometimes torching the
American flag.

By the time I went,
returning vets were whispered to be
“losers” “dopeheads” and “psychos,”
said to be better off, if just left alone.

By the time I went,
LBJ had doubled down, saying
he didn’t intend to be the first
President to lose an American war.

By the time I went,
MLK had called it
a white man’s war, being
fought by young Blacks,
to secure freedoms in
southeast Asia, which people of
color were denied back home.

By the time I went,
the atrocities at My Lai had been
exposed, and now everyone was
wondering, asking how many rogue
soldiers were still out there,
lining-up and killing women, kids,
and old men.

By the time I went,
body counts were the measure of success,
for winning this confusing, unpopular,
ugly, real ugly war.

The week I went,
the Kent State massacre happened,
four students dead, nine wounded,
gunned down by state Guardsmen,
while protesting the war. They had
rallied to stop new bombing, and
that got them shot. America was
twisting off.

By the time I went,
I was an old man of 26,
assigned to a safe place,
away from the hillsides, ridges and
jungles, where teen-agers were dying,
defending the war-planners’ “domino
theory,” the only reason given,
for going to war.

By the time I went, in the American
public’s eyes, the unpopular
war, and those who went, were seen
as one and the same. In sports and war,
our nation likes winners, that often seemed,
to be the chief complaint.

When it finally ended, 58,000
American soldiers were dead, and
300,000 more had come home, wounded but alive.
Thousands upon thousands returned
with missing limbs, PTSD, and addictions
to stuff called “snow” and “coke.”
Families had changed forever,
but no one seemed to really care.
It was over, and that was enough.
Vietnam was the war America wanted to forget.