Bruce Springsteen wrote the song “Brothers Under the Bridge” in 1995. It tells the story of a group of homeless Vietnam veterans who set up a camp in the San Gabriel mountains near Los Angeles. “This is the story about one of them who has a grown daughter that he’s never seen,” Mr. Springsteen explains, “and she grows up, and she comes looking for her dad.” Though Mr. Springsteen himself dodged the draft during the Vietnam era (“As I grew older, sometimes I wondered who went in my place. Somebody did. What was his fate? Did he live? I’ll never know”), he lost friends in the war and became a major supporter of the Vietnam veterans movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Bobby Muller, head of Vietnam Veterans of America, went so far as to say, “If it wasn’t for Bruce coming forward, there would not have been a coherent, national movement on behalf of Vietnam vets.”

Author Walker Percy once observed of Mr. Springsteen: “His songs are about America, without hyping the country up and without knocking the country down…. He sings of us while singing to us.”

Saigon, it was all gone
The same Coke machines
As the streets I grew on
Down in a mesquite canyon
We come walking along the ridge
Me and the brothers under the bridge

Campsite’s an hour’s walk from the nearest road to town
Up here there’s too much brush and canyon
For the CHP choppers to touch down
Ain’t lookin’ for nothin’, just wanna live
Me and the brothers under the bridge

Come the Santa Anas, man, that dry brush’ll light
Billy Devon got burned up in his own campfire one winter night
We buried his body in the white stone high up along the ridge
Me and the brothers under the bridge

Had enough of town and the street life
Over nothing you end up on the wrong end of someone’s knife
Now I don’t want no trouble
And I ain’t got none to give
Me and the brothers under the bridge

I come home in ’72
You were just a beautiful light
In your mama’s dark eyes of blue
I stood down on the tarmac, I was just a kid
Me and the brothers under the bridge

Come Veterans’ Day I sat in the stands in my dress blues
I held your mother’s hand
When they passed with the red, white and blue
One minute you’re right there… and something slips….

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The featured image is from the National Guard Archives and is in the public domain.

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