In 1970, Joni Mitchell wrote it and sang it. And in 1975 it became a hit: Big Yellow Taxi.
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’ hot spot.
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
In June of 1964 I joined the United States Army. And I suppose I was patriotic enough; in a naïve, romanticized John Wayne, mindless recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance sort of way. I remember my first and only foot patrol. It was in May of ’65, right along the DMZ in South Korea, north of the Imjin. Our sector was sandwiched between Libby and Freedom Bridges. And PFC Hendrix bought it; was exploded to grisly confetti by a remotely detonated anti-tank mine.
Other than what got splattered on trees and the grass and the patrol’s fatigue jackets, there wasn’t enough left of him to fit into a gallon Ziplock — except that Ziplocks hadn’t yet been invented.
And I put in three 1049’s, for transfer out of South Korea to Vietnam. Captain Ackiss turned every one of my requests down. Before taking command of our company he had been stationed in South Vietnam, certifying the dead bodies in the full metal jackets being transported stateside were who they were supposed to be. Except none of them were supposed to be headed “home” that way.
That’s what Captain Ackiss told me, each time he declined my reassignment request. I suppose I was patriotic enough, in a mindless recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance sort of way.
Over the years, I’ve come to consider Captain Ackiss as the true patriot, a true man with moral courage. He, an officer, confided to a PFC what superimposed Army protocol stated should never have been confided: We had no business being “over there.”