Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam

by Walter Dean Myers and Ann Grifalconi

A tense and riveting narrative poem speaks from the point of view of a young Black... read more

A tense and riveting narrative poem speaks from the point of view of a young Black soldier in Vietnam. “I am so afraid,” he says as he and his squad make their way through the jungle. The sound of birds is replaced by the sounds of airplanes, bombs, and gunfire, as they secure the village that is their target. It is occupied by old men, women and babies. “Little enemies with tears running down their dusty cheeks.” The young man cannot stop thinking about “the enemy” and yet it is an impersonalized concept until he comes face to face with an armed Vietnamese soldier. “I know he wants me to lift my rifle, to be the enemy. / I want him to lift his rifle. / I want him to run away. / In a heartbeat, we have learned too much about each other.” The war is both humanizing and dehumanizing in this thought-provoking piece. The narrator’s encounter puts a face on the enemy—two faces, and one of them is his own. It also shatters his illusion that “the enemy” is anything other than another young man who may not be very different from himself in a book in which the only judgment issued is one that affirms the human toll of war is far too great. The poem is illustrated by Ann Grifalconi’s full-page collages in which she sets images of fear and destruction against the lush natural beauty of the jungle landscape. (Age 11 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003

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