The Death of Lee Boy

Lee Byron Childress, a sculptor and crusader for the rights of Vietnam Veterans, died on July 31, 1997 at 52 years old.

Lee died of lung cancer related to his exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

He was born in Berkeley, attended Oakland Technical High School and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in creative arts from San Francisco State University.

During the Vietnam War, he served as an Army sergeant in the 205th Assault Helicopter Company.

After the war, he became a sculptor, pioneering light refraction and casting techniques using polyester resins. His work was exhibited in galleries across the country.

Lee Boy, as he was known to his vet buddies, was also known locally for his work as an outspoken veterans' rights advocate and poet. His memory lives on with those of us who loved him.

Here are his Vietnam War poems, considered by many who went through the experience as some of the best ever written by a combat veteran.

Phil Reser



Old soldiers never die;
They just wish they could.

He's your brother.
He's your son.
He's the one who humped your gun.
Now his mind has come undone
And you applaud it.

Through a ten-year war it seems
You were hatching all your dreams
So you couldn't hear the screams
Your own son dying.

He's back, put to bed,
Sleeping with the dead,
Bloated on the lies you fed.

For he cannot stop the popping
Or the helicopter chopping down his brain.

He's so hooked,
He's so fried,
Screaming from his eyes.

Copyright 1979, Lee Childress


Two thousand yard stare
Is always there.

His crippled eyes
On mirrored skies

Drift, like falling flares.

Alone, inside, the croud
Moves by

But he's not really there.

His body hangs on bones of pain,
His tears are monsoon rain.

Will the answer be given to you.

You must look down his eyes,
Past the screams and your cries,

To a home that's been empty for years.

For here in this place
Lives a country's disgrace,

It's black.

And there's room for you too.

Copyright 1979, Lee Childress


You will not take my son.
You cannot have my son.
I will cut off his fingers
So he can't pull your triggers.
He will never understand why
His father has crippled him.

Someday, his father won't either.

But, then, you'll not want my son.

Copyright 1979, Lee Childress



Hot air
Brains, fingers, feet
Floating in the heat
On their way to heaven.

Rockets flash
Time blasts
Years pass
On the other side of heaven.

Suck your ass around your brain
So fast
So you may pass
Through the hole the shrapnel left.

Light can lift hear to heaven.
Brains and feet to heaven.

Copyright 1979, Lee Childress


ROCKET 122 mm

A 122 is coming at you
On wings of sensory death.
It's shiny and bright,
At night outta sight.
And you know it's whistling for you.

It takes all your dreams
In a second, it seems,
As the seconds start
To count you.

For if you see the whole blast,
You know that it's past.
Now its brother
Is searching for you.

Copyright 1979, Lee Childress


On Fulton Street today,
I felt it.

they are starting to let us come home.

Abandoned, alone, stranded.
Eleven years, iron men rusting in our tears.
Don't start screaming in our ears.

You have found us.

We were never lost.
We've been watching.
We've been bleeding for your sins.

coming out
Is coming in.

Falling down
To fall again.

There is nothing here to win.

Yet understanding.

Copyright 1979, Lee Childress