A “Veterans Day Tribute” in Poetry, Commentary, and Pictures!!
“Who am I?”
I left home to go to a far away land, now everything is different. I can’t explain to anyone how. Lately everything seems to be so very confused. It all runs together and it won’t slow down. One minute I’m a normal eighteen year old kid without a care in the world. Next minute I’m a soldier, alone with my thoughts as I crouch behind a battered vehicle dodging enemy bullets that whiz past my head. Beside me are my brothers and sisters, my only source of strength and courage to go on when I feel myself start to slip away..
An enemy attacked our country. They killed thousands of our own. They threaten to destroy us, to make our country their own. So we came to this place to put an end to their goals. We freed another people these fanatics also terrorized. We taught them how to be free. We gave them hope for a better future. We are helping rebuild their country. At the same time we now fight alongside each other to defeat this common enemy.
Sadly, one day one of their eighteen year old might be sent far away. They too may have to fight an enemy who threatens to destroy their homeland. But I pray what we do here today will help prevent that far away day. Not because I am a coward or don’t want to do my job. I am just a soldier, who loves his/her country. And I’m proud to do my part.
Like many other soldiers before, I willingly volunteered for this honor. To me and my brothers and sisters there is no higher calling except the call of God. I live to serve and protect, to keep our enemies at bay. I trained hard for that day all the while hoping it would never come. But if the call came, I knew I would do what needed to be done. There was also the element of being tested, to know if I could I do my part if the need arose.
But I always hoped that my job would become obsolete. You see, no soldier really wants to kill another human being, be they enemy or innocent victims who are unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We hope our very training and presence will deter those who would do us harm. But, now, as in the past, there are those who have no love of country or even their fellow man. They spread terror, hate and death anywhere that they can.
I was all pumped up my first day in this land. I was going to help stop this enemy who brazenly attacked us on our very shore. I was going to stop him, let him feel the Eagle at his door. The first time I had to kill one of them, I never felt any remorse. I didn’t look into his face as he died, so I felt no remorse. But that all changed one day as I watched the life flow slowly from my enemy’s face. Then I watched, for the first time, as the life’s blood of an innocent child drained slowly into the sand. I couldn’t help but feel there must be some other way! I felt a tear slide down my face!
Then I stood helplessly by and watched as one of my own brothers and sisters died. I felt the loss like a stabbing burning pain deep inside my heart. I stored it beside the images of all those innocent children. I felt an anger begin to grow inside me that at times threatened to consume me. I wanted to kill every single one of the enemy. I wanted to strangle them with my bare hands, watch as the recognition appeared in their eyes they were dying at my hands. I would savor that moment forever.
But a voice inside me, I don’t know if it was my own or that of God above, said do that and what will be the difference between you and those you judge. So I put aside my anger, or at least that which crossed the line from soldier defending the rights of others to madman killing just to kill. I tempered my rage, I swallowed my grief, I put aside my loneliness and fears, and became a soldier again.
Everyday, or at least once a week when I could, I talked to my loved one(s) back at home. I read the letters incessantly, opened their packages made with such love. These things were my salvation. They reminded me of who I was before I came to this far away land. I didn’t realize just how much of myself was lost day by day. We are too busy staying alive and doing our jobs to think about much of anything else.
But one day I began to notice a difference. It was a subtle something I couldn’t quite grasp. I started marking down the days as the end of my tour was coming to pass. I found there were more and more moments of reflection. Sometimes I couldn’t even remember what I reflected about. I just wanted to be home again, be normal again, be clean again, sleep in my own bed, not have to go out, hunt the enemy, kill him or be killed, see all the death, the violence. I missed my home. I missed my family. I missed my life. But these thoughts confused me. I am a soldier after all. I have a duty. I answer the call.
I felt guilty about wanting to leave behind my fellow brothers and sisters. I felt guilty that some of them would never go home. I felt guilty because of the burdens my job placed on my family. I felt unclean. Could they still love me though I am no longer that person who went away that day to protect and defend them from harms way? I felt so afraid! Then I felt a terrible fear begin to grow inside me that the horrors of what I had seen, had done, had lived with during my time here might some way touch them too. After months of living on guard to protect my very life, would I be able to relax these instincts?
As I lay in my bed at night reliving the horrors of war in my sleep, would my spouse be safe from me? Would I lose control in that moment of not being asleep anymore but not quite awake, and think he/she was the enemy? Can I control all the anger, rage, pain, and not let it spill over to my kids? But hardest of all, can I be with them, accept their love when inside even though some small part of me knows all that other garbage is there and all of what is left of my emotions is still inside me somewhere but I FEEL ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
A dark cloud of nothingness and darkness is wrapped around my heart. It stays with me night and day. Only the battle with the enemy or the fellowship of my brothers and sisters in arms comforts me because I see that same nothingness in their eyes too. I see their confusion too. I see that like me their training and professionalism as trained soldiers is all that allows them to go on each day. All that keeps us all on the right side of the line that separates us from the type of human being we are and the enemy we fight.
All those cards, letters, phone calls, emails, they too help keep us from crossing that line. They also keep us from losing ourselves completely. It is the support from home that keeps us going. It is the love from our country that makes the difference. That’s why when I read or hear the news from home my despair deepens. The news is all so negative. There is no news of the good we do. There is no news that we are winning this war. There is no news that says our country has not abandoned us. There is only the marching in the streets, the protests outside the hospitals where our brothers and sisters lay recovering from their wounds, the fighting in the Congress.
Were it not for our training, the love we brought with us of our loved ones, the love of our country, our own love in return, I/we couldn’t go on. We wouldn’t have had the strength to start checking out things for ourselves about the situation back at home. We wouldn’t have been able to figure out that all those spreading the hate, negativity, and lack of support are made of the same substance as the enemy we fight here, so far away from home. The only thing that keeps our fear at bay for our homeland is knowing and remembering that the same spirit that has allowed our country to exist this long will raise its collective arm and stop those at home who would destroy our country, its dreams, its hopes, all the good that exists in America.
So, “Who am I?” I am an American Soldier. I am an American Veteran. I am proud to be an American. I love my country. I am proud and feel privileged to have served my country. But I am one of many who need help. I am not a coward. I am not afraid to serve again. But, sometimes no matter how hard I try, the stain of war leaves an imprint on me that I can’t fight off by myself. I try. God knows I try. But, I need your help now. I need you to help me look after my family . I need you to help me find myself again. I need you to be strong and do your part as I recover. I need you to not let those in America who would try to destroy our country succeed. I need to know my sacrifices, given willingly, were not in vain. I need to know what I did mattered. I need to know again, “Who am I the person?”
I wrote this post on behalf of our troops a few years ago. I have never served in combat, so I hope I did you all justice. As a veteran myself from a family of veterans, from a family that knows first hand about the loss of a loved one in this war, I feel a very protective bond toward our troops and all past veterans.
Though, as I said, I am not a combat veteran, I have had the honor and privilege of serving with literally hundreds if not thousands of combat veterans. Over the years since my service in the Corps during the Vietnam Era, I have carried with me a sense of pride that only comes through serving our great nation. As I walk down the streets of my hometown, I still find myself doing a check to see of my shoulders are straight back and my head held high. I still find myself checking my shoes and clothes to make sure they meet the “standards” though I probably look like a grunge because today might be one of my “I don’t give a rat’s @$$ days how I look!”I still find myself marching, unconsciously to the music when marching songs are played over a P.A. system! I still stop and face the “Flag” if I am out near the local base and hear the call for “morning” of “evening” colors as the Flag is raised or lowered!
I feel the pain of every death in Iraq or Afghanistan and elsewhere as our troops today carry on the proud “honor and privilege” of serving our nation around the world! As I read their names, I an haunted by the memories of all the young troops who went through MCRD San Diego over three decades ago to serve in another war, Vietnam. I am saddened because I can’t remember their names and many of their faces.
I am saddened because I don’t know how many of them did not come home safe and well to get on with the rest of their lives. I am saddened that many who did come home, came home “broken” and soon forgotten, not to praise and thanks for doing their job; but, to hatred, anger, and reprisals! For too many years they were the “forgotten soldiers” who carried the shame of nation on their backs.
But that shame was a misplaced shame, a falsely labeled shame! While many then and now, would have us believe in the unjustness of Vietnam and our nation’s shameful involvement, that is not the source of the real shame. The real shame was abandoned a nation of people to genocide. The real shame was treating our returning veterans with indifference and scorn. The real shame was a nation that allowed a few people, with no respect for our Democracy and Constitution, who would destroy those ideals if they could , and make us a Socialist or Communist nation, speak for our nation at large and treat our troops with so little respect, and dictate our foreign policy. The real shame lies on the shoulders of all of us who allowed our apathy and “what can we do” attitude of helplessness allow us to remain silent against these “enemies from within!” The real shame lies in our allowing these same enemies of Democracy and our Constitution to infiltrate our Congress through the Progressive caucus. The real shame lies on our shoulders for allowing someone of Nancy Pelosi’s ideology to become Speaker of the House and third in line for the Presidency!
The real shame lies in our having allowed these groups to make God illegal in America, make Christmas no longer a celebration of the birth of Christ but a celebration of man’s individuality. The real shame comes from doctoring our history books so kids don’t know about the holocaust, the good America has done, the values and dreams that led to the formation of our nation.
We should be ashamed as a nation to have squandered our rights and allowed these people who would tear down all our founding fathers fought for and protected when they wrote our Constitution under the guise of political correctness! We should be ashamed to have allowed the media to censor our news by failing to force them into accepting the responsibilities and obligations of accountability that go hand in hand with their privilege protection under the 1st Amendment.
AS A NATION WE SHOULD BE ASHAMED THAT WE DO NOT HOLD OUR POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE TO WE [US], THE PEOPLE! Granted we have an electoral college; but, we also have the mightiest sword in the land, the power of the vote! Yet many of us fail to vote. Many of us vote; but, know little about who we vote for. So, we vote for the “party!” In doing this we give away our empowerment as a free, Democratic nation, of the people, by the people! While the enemies of our nation, both inside and outside our shores use our rights for their purposes to bring us down as a nation; they do so because we do not stay informed, do not vote, do not demand accountability, do not question the motives of those who lobby our votes into so much meaningless fodder as they buy our freedom or bargain it away.
This is not just a Democratic versus Republican crisis, a left versus right crisis, or any of a great number other crisis. At one time we burned “witches ” in Salem. The crisis is about staying informed, protecting people’s rights; but, not at an absurd extreme that effectively denies the rights of the many. There is such a thing as balance, compromise, and protecting the “will of the individual” without destroying “the will of the many!” We have statutes of limitations on crimes, why not past cultural grievances. Personally, I never owned a slave. But “my people” were here before our nation existed. Past a reasonable and respectable efforts, how long should I be allowed to “milk” past events at the expense of the present or future? I could go on and on along this topic but I won’t.
My point in all of this is how our troops freely risk their lives defending what we at home take for granted! When someone can complain because they find the burial ritual of another offensive and deny thousands the right and freedom of conducting their tribute to their lost loved and include the mention of God in that service, we have gone too far. That person is free to conduct such services as they wish but at the same time they are denying others the same right. They are in effect forcing their values on others. I will be the first to admit that extremism on both sides are equally appalling and exist. So why has the rest of our nation allowed the extremists on both sides to dictate our rights and liberties?
It is time as a nation we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and how our apathy and indifference is allowing extremism to erode away all that is good about America! All that our troops are dying to protect and defend! You want to honor our troops this Veterans day and all our past Veterans? Then, become involved at home in safe guarding our nation and Constitution. The continued survival of our free, Democratic nation with adherence and respect for the ideals of the founding fathers as written in the Constitution is the greatest tribute to all our Veterans!!
To our veterans, thank you. I can think of so many things to list to thank you for; but, they would be too numerous to list. So please accept my heartfelt gratitude and thanks for all your sacrifices and those of your families. God Bless you all. God Bless America!
On a lighter note, here again, are some of the pictures I’ve accumulated over the past several years of our troops. Last time I added them, it seems a lot of people enjoyed them. These are some of the men and women to whom we pay tribute today!
A message for “white flag Nancy! We’ve got “bird!'”
[My favorite of all!]