Am I brave? Limits of manhood, naivety, and all-around wonder with the world – I and they collide. Teenage wild eyes. Go where it’s crazy, it’s okay.
Feel a need for adventure, feel a need to serve, feel a need to follow, feel a need to lead, to compare, to matter. To evolve. Feel a need to be something more. More for myself, more for my family, more for what people think of me. Miss me when I am gone.
Right hand up. Words spoken. Oath taken.
See a warrior. FNG, I am the liability. I work hard not to be. I am learning. What is best in life? To crush your enemies? People sleep peacefully? The man in the arena? Pray to Ares?
Shoot at me, so I can shoot back. Die in Glory or live in glory. It’s glory the same. Speak my name. Come of age, to test the mettle. The vision quest. Do something others cannot.
In the land. All about the cause. For the man, next to me. The mission. Trust your Brother. No glamor. Dust and energy. Mountains. I am on a helicopter with a gun. Repeat. They let me on a fucking helicopter with a gun. Goddamn, I am cool.
On target. Shots fired. Contact right. Fear. Closer to the ground than at any point in my life. Adrenaline. Anger. Ballistic in every sense. Confusion. Squad leader calm. I am calm. Looking to get my gun in the fight. Gravity on me, death to another. I didn’t pull the trigger, the man that did is my brother.
Extinguished. Standing over. This isn’t a deer. Nauseous and nobody knows. No remorse, heavy thoughts. Only another rotation in the GWOT.
Next. Dry hole x 25. Death dealing again. Dry hole x 10. Deployment ends. Home. Different. Reverence from others. Patch on the right side. Training, more training, I hate training. New deployment. Raise hell on the town before touch down.
Many nights out, meaningful work. This night feels the same then it doesn’t. Different. The hair on the back of the neck. Contact. Focus. Threat clear, waiting for the all-clear. Will we ever get the all-clear? Pause. “Eagle down” on the radio. Worst words never heard. Static. It can’t be true. Don’t say the name on the net. This man was not meant to sing his death song, Yet.
Reality rushes in. His family, wife. It’s not me, guilty, carry this, not gently. Sick. Strife. Devastated. This can crush men. I cannot stop looking at him.
Still, eyes reflecting back at me. Found everything that I bargained for. Is it a just war? Or it is just war, where the serving size equals more? I am more, for having been here, I’ll be less at home. Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread. I built this armor then it turned to thread. Blue skies brother, you’re the best I’ve known.
Pull my spirit from my body and wear it like clothes. We move on from grief because we are told. On mission again, I feel exposed. Here we are though, I am ready to roll, round-racked, poised for attack.
On targets plural. Landing in fields rural. Giving the enemy spines a bullet epidural. Squirters. It’s a carnage trade with steel casings and cell phone bombs. They mark our brains and we take their lives.
Men are wounded on all sides, ours too. Glory is not like I thought before, yet there is wiseness from war. You can pass off all you know. Your side will fight better. If you say to your son- never go to war -he will nod his head, all along his spirit says, never say never. Ironic in a sense, the only guarantee in war, is the death of innocence.