Why Did Johnny Die?
Poetry by Lachlan Irvine


(For J.W.W., who was the Australian flag-bearer at the Chicago Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Parade in 1986, and worked as hard as anybody to ensure Australian veterans were given a similar welcome home, only to take his own life just weeks before the achievement of his dream)

We've come a long way in recent times,
The dark years have passed us by;
We seemed to be going ahead with our lives
So why did Johnny die?

He won his fight with the bureaucrats
When they made him a T.P.I.;
For him the war should have been over
So why did Johnny die?

You should have seen him in Chicago
Marching with head held high;
So full of pride you'd have thought he'd burst
So why did Johnny die?

He carried the flag of the Southern Cross
Aloft in the northern sky;
It looked like the start of a brand new life
So why did Johnny die?

He stood up on stage just to say "G'day"
It sounded so dinky-di;
And a hundred thousand Americans cheered
So why did Johnny die?

He dreamed of an Aussie Welcome Home
For his mates he'd give it a try;
And at last that dream was coming true
So why did Johnny die?

If you long for the day when we all come home,
When no more mothers will cry;
You may find the solution if you can explain
Why Johnny had to die.

Lachlan Irvine

For more Vietnam War poems, return to the Vietnam War Poetry Page.

Vietnam War Poetry