"I'm sorry I must leave, but I must do what is asked of me by my God, my Country, and my Corps.. and so, the war blog begins, again." ~B

14 December 2013

Who do you tell

First time writing since my injury.  It's like riding a bike, right?...~wendy

Ten years on this journey.

But who to share it with?  Who can know?

Not the feel good, funny, homecoming, brotherhood side.

The dark. The ugly side.

Ten years of war and it is easy to pick out the soldiers. The warriors.  But there are others equally scarred by its destruction. They are in the background. Families.  Friends. Lovers. The volunteers. Those nameless people doing all they can to help contain, in some small way, all that destruction. But that means letting the destruction in to your own soul as well.

Who tells our stories?

Who knows what we have seen?

What we have heard?

What we have felt.

The things we do not talk about.

You cannot share them at the time.  

We must-- "Keep all communications positive.  To do otherwise is to put your soldier at risk.  Do not be a distraction.  It can get him killed. Listen. Do not judge. Remember your smiles!" 

"Send a themed care package once a month. Make it fun."

"My Hero. Thank You for what you are doing. We support what you are doing.Thank you for your service. You are a Hero." 

What happens when the words have lost their meaning?  When you can no longer ignore the messy darkness shoved behind the boxes and no longer stand the platitudes you are supposed to spout? 

When you can no longer ignore the things that are real.

The killing.  The dying.  The wretched wounded.  The souls torn open.  The shattered minds.

The unrelenting never-ending fucking wastefulness of it all.

Who do you tell?

Very few people want to see the darkness.  It doesn't fit well into their world views.  It is messy.  It isn't nice to look at.  It might make them hurt too.  It is too hard. Some may ask, but then they get that stunned shell shocked look on their faces, so unprepared for the truth.

Ten years is a long time and it all has to go somewhere.  Buried deep. Maybe too deep.  But also right there, just under the surface, if you care to know where to look.

It is all there in the silence.  Bursting out of the footlockers in the garage where I try to leave it.

If you do it right, it is more than you ever expected to see.  More than you were ever prepared for.  More than you know what to do with yourself.  But no one wants to hear about that part.
Don't let things get too heavy.  Lighten it up.
Smiling soldiers with puppies are good for slideshows. No one wants to see the screaming, bleeding ones at your presentation.

Remember, Baking cookies is easier to deal with than the sobs of grown boys.
Do you hear it? 
(The weeping. He killed a man today. His first. I can hear it, ragged breath coming through the ripped open pieces of his soul. The broken pieces spilling out over the phone line to cover me. I hold them in my hands but I do not know how to put him back together.) (The sobbing. Helo crash. A spinning rotor blade will cut right through human flesh.  It doesn't care if that piece of flesh happens to be the face of his best friend.) (The crying. I love you. Jess is dead.)

Squirt guns and school supplies make better stories than talking the rifle out of a man's hands. (Pleading. Praying. ohgodohgod Swearing. putitthefuckdown. Begging. please.please.please.please.don'tdothistome.please.)
(Two days spent waiting for word. Success or failure? Can I live with failure?)

The flags.  The funerals. Their mothers. 
(I sit sometimes, at your grave, W.  I try to tell you these things. But I can't. I'm always empty. Like this place seems empty. I stare blankly at the granite.)

Broken bodies trying to put broken minds back together.

Even when they make it home it isn't always better.  Too many still fight the war. BD. CJ. Too many lose. The number keep rising.  Justin. Mac. It hurts. Oh God. It fucking hurts.

No one tell you that you when you start this that you will get broken too. You will make promises you can't keep. There are things you cannot unhear or unfeel. The Loss. The waiting and the helpless watching.  No ones says you will also touch the black and it will gut you too.

When we started none of us expected to still be doing this 10 year later.  But it didn't end. 

All of these things...who do you tell? 

And how do you walk away?

I made him a promise. Without this I don't know how to keep it.

Perhaps, it is time, though.

All that is left is the doing.
“The war was a long way away. Maybe there wasn't any war. There was no war here. Then I realized it was over for me. But I did not have the feeling that it was really over. I had the feeling of a boy who thinks of what is happening at a certain hour at the schoolhouse from which he has played truant.” 
― Ernest HemingwayA Farewell to Arms

13 January 2013

Remembering Gunnar

I haven't taken the time to write since life decided to toss me upon the rocks about this time last year.  But I cannot let this day go by without reflecting on the passage of time.  Today marks 8 years since the loss of a very special young man.  A soldier.  A son.

There are those who do not know this part of me.  They will ask: Who is this man?  and  Who is this man to you?  To their Facebook queries and offhand inquiries I will tell them just that. He is a soldier.  A son.  A fallen hero.  He deserves to be remembered.  You must remember his name. He is a casualty of war.  You must remember that he is a person.  And he has left behind very real people who still mourn him but have carried on.  

Who is he to me?  He is the soft note of sorrow in every sad and patriotic song.  He is "the land of the free and the home of the brave."  The red in the stripes that fly overhead.  To me he is the first casualty in a list that continues to grow.  He made me understand what I had begun and its importance. Where pride and pain intersect.  He is a drop in the bucket that turned a project into a mission.    Honor.  Courage. Commitment.  Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage.  He taught me more than he could ever know.  In some ways, Gunnar was one of those first defining steps into the realities of adulthood.  He prepared me to send someone I love to war.  He prepared me for Will.  For Jessica and Jonathon.  For Kyle.   

 The things that I've learned in the last nine years, the things I have been taught, are why I cannot walk away.  Gunnar is a part of that. I cannot accept the refrain: "Haven't you done enough? Just stop with the letters. The boxes.  The names.  The stories.  Walk away."  But I am the keeper of stories, even if many of them now live in a footlocker in my garage or inside me, tucked away and guarded.  I will not break faith with those who live or those who die.  Steve, wherever you are, I will keep my promise.  I will not let them be forgotten.  

Since Gunnar was also a poet I offer this tribute in verse.  May your words forever live beside these as they capture the life and experience of soldiers.  I can't wait to hang out with you some day. In the meantime, your mom is pretty remarkable.  Keep looking after her and exercising those angel wings.  You will live forever in the memories of those who knew you and you can be assured that you will not be forgotten.

This We'll Defend.

PFC Gunnar Becker
January 22, 1985 - January 13, 2005

The Kid Has Gone to the Colors
William Herschell
in The Indianapolis News
The Kid has gone to the Colors
And we don't know what to say;
The Kid we have loved and cuddled
Stepped out for the Flag today.
We thought him a child, a baby,
With never a care at all,
But his country called him man--size
And the Kid has heard the call.
He paused to watch the recruiting
Where, fired by the fife and drum,
He bowed his head to Old Glory
And thought that it whispered "Come!"
The Kid, not being a slacker,
Stood forth with patriot-joy
To add his name to the roster--
And God, we're proud of the boy!
The Kid has gone to the Colors;
It seems but a little while
Since he drilled a schoolboy army
In a truly martial style.
But now he's a man, a soldier,
And we lend him listening ear,
For his heart is a heart all loyal,
Unscourged by the curse of fear.
His dad, when he told him, shuddered,
His mother--God bless her!--cried!
Yet, blest with a mother-nature,
She wept with a mother--pride.
But he whose old shoulders straightened
Was Granddad--for memory ran
To years when he, too, a youngster,

Was changed by the Flag to a man!

To the Fallen--Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

The Heart-Cry

She turned the page of wounds and death 
With trembling fingers. In a breath 
The gladness of her life became 
Naught but a memory and a name. 

Farewell! Farewell! I might not share 
The perils it was yours to dare. 
Dauntless you fronted death: for me 
Rests to face life as fearlessly. 

F.W. Bourdillon