To those who served, thank you

Normally, Mad Genius Club is a blog about writing or at least about writers. We discuss the publishing industry, our own work and the path we have taken or are currently taking to get our work into the hands of readers. We sometimes get a bit controversial when we get a belly-full of one side or the other telling us how something must be done. Today, as those of us in the United States commemorate Veteran’s Day, as I think about my son who is currently serving in the USAF, I think it important that we remember those who have served or who are currently serving in the military. They are the ones who have sacrificed so we have the freedom to write what we want. We can be critical of the government. We can speculate on events to come. As long as we don’t do the proverbial shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, we can write or say pretty much whatever we want. (Here’s why I point out that this is not a political post.)

Any way, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic as well as thankful for what the men and women who have served the country have sacrificed to keep the US great and I ask you to help me honor their sacrifices by remembering them today. Along that line, I give you this from Jonathan LaForce. Jonathan is a newly published author and a former Marine. So, to Jonathan, to my son and to all who serve or who have served, thank you.

Myrmidon Tears

“Parade rest!”

At once, 600 pairs of boots stamp into the grass,

Palms crossing in the small of our backs.

7 months and 2 weeks after it started,

This is how we end the deployment.

“Murderous muscle-bound myrmidons!”

Two hours under the sun,

Performing a final act to honor a good man.

And though we’d rather leave

Discipline demands we stand,

As if performing the Birkenhead Drill.

“Jack-booted gun-toting thugs!”

The man’s name is stated,

His deeds recounted, and of him,

No foul word nor claim can be said.

A genuine truth this, for he was

In all regards a Christian gentleman.

“War criminals! Baby killers! Rapists!”

He was twenty-one that day

Old enough to drink, to vote, to shave

Old enough to pick up a rifle

Old enough to start a family

Old enough to wear the symbols

Of an American Marine.

But Death cares not for such things

And a roadside bomb laid him low.

It’s why we’re here today,

Listening to his mother plea for her baby.

El Dio, Mijo, Padre Celestial.

“First Sergeants, call the roll!”

We brace ourselves, knowing what’s on the way,

Sure as god, sure as death.

“PFC Josue Ibarra! PFC Josue Ibarra! PFC Josue Ibarra!”

Not once, not twice, but thrice his name’s repeated,

A white hot brand searing into our minds.

The boots come out, placed with care,

Then a rifle, held in place by the bayonet

Stabbed deep into the soil.

Finally a helmet to cap it all off.

This is the marker of a man who fell in battle.

It dates back to earlier days,

Tarawa, Belleau Wood, Chapultepec.

They escort his mother up first

We watch as she faints,

Falling over unable to contain the grief.

And all of it makes us angry.

Rage and grief combine as we approach that marker.

Paying our respects to the fallen.

Wishing for one awful moment to trade him places

Before we send him on to the eternities.

Our society hates us…

The ruling elite despise our symbols

Celebrities mock us at every turn,

Fearing and hating our capacity for violence.

They fervently believe that all we are

Is unthinking, unfeeling, uncaring beasts of war.

They’ll never know what it means

To “stand to” by dawn’s early light;

To run up the colors each day,

Wondering if you’ll live to see them lowered,

In the southern Afghan desert;

To plug a slashed jugular

And save a young marine’s life as bullets crack over head.

To load and fire and load again

Cannons roaring like dragons.

They’ll never see the myrmidon’s tears,

Etching scars not just in our faces

But our minds, our hearts, the fabric of our souls

They never see the drinking, the grief

The ways we harden ourselves outwardly;

They never see the guilt of surviving

Of living and wishing to die,

If only so that at one better than you could live.

Angel’s never cry,

We give hope to those we protect.

No one sees the myrmidon’s tears.

–Jonathon LaForce, 2014

16 Comments

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16 responses to “To those who served, thank you

  1. Pingback: Nocturnal Lives » Veteran’s Day

  2. John in Philly

    Amanda,

    I still cannot make it to the end of the post. I will restock the tissues and try again later.

    Looking back on eight years active Navy and sixteen years of reserve Navy service, I say you are welcome.

    John in Philly, USNR Retired

  3. Reblogged this on Head Noises and commented:
    Thank God we are granted such people, and in such great numbers.

  4. Angus Trim

    Thank you very much for the poem.

    US Army
    1969 – 1972

  5. They recently had a short news clip over here about the most recent Victoria Cross awardee. He’s still alive, working and married. Humble bloke, salt of the earth type.

    These are the people who build nations. Thank you for the poem.

  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    I’ve noticed a trend lately that bothers me. It’s the posts that start with “Of course we honor our veterans BUT we should also be honoring the activists who fight for our rights.” No. Remembrance/Veteran’s Day is for VETERANS. Do not try to hijack it for your pet causes.

    • A related trend is honoring only those who were “heroic.” Always left undefined, of course, unless it’s a recent guy who is trying to appeal to authority.

      No. It is embarrassing, as one of those folks who only signed away a few years, to be thanked for my service by folks who were serious heroes– but it’s not “pick and choose what veterans I want to respect day.”

      You sign up to put yourself between this country and her enemies on the battle field, you serve honorably, you’re a vet. You’d think that’s obvious, what with there being enemy attacks on military members on our very soil– but it does have to be said, just as you have to say “No. Veteran’s day. Not ‘Activists I Approve Of’ day.”

      • That’s the thing that always amazes me. I knew very few who have served in the military who think of themselves as heroes or who are comfortable being thanked for their service. That is, in my opinion, part of what makes them so special. They simply stepped up to do what they saw as their duty and more often than not see it as an honor to have served. That does make them heroes in my book.

    • This. 110% this. They can actually try make their own, instead of stealing and parasitizing.

  7. robfornow

    Not too long ago, a person no longer on my friend list posted a joke about a Redneck telling an American Indian to go back where he came from. So the Indian moved into the Redneck’s back yard. I made the comment, “A little racist but since it’s against whites it’s authorized.” That got me called a racist and called in my right to live in the US. I replied, “First I was born in this country, second, I spent two terms of military service in this country. I think I qualify.” First time I ever listed that to said poster; even though he is part of my family (foreign born, married a cousin) and part of family for years. I don’t share personal information to anyone.
    And, I don’t consider my military participation as anything special. 1960, Khrushchev said “We will bury you” I said “No you won’t.” and joined the Navy. 1966 Johnson said- we’re going to Nam- I said “wait for me.” No big deal and not looking for points even today. (Joined Seabees- prior service- went to training staff and didn’t go incountry) He (Democrat) commented “We all know your military achievements, Bob. (applause) but, that doesn’t qualify you to comment…” Instead of his company, I try to hang out with the Patriot Guard Riders. Much better company.

    • Robfornow,

      You reminded me of something that happened when I was attending Texas Tech. I’ve talked about it here before but it has been awhile. It was the morning the news broke about our embassy being seized in Iran. I remember sitting in the commons of the law school with friends, most of whom were former military. Some were only a few years older than I. Others were the age of my parents. But each and every one of them — Marine, Army, Air Force and Navy — were focused on just one thing. They were ready to once again answer the call and do what they saw as their duty.

      They had, each of them, contacted either their CO in the Reserves or whatever officer they knew still on active duty. If they were needed, they weren’t going to hesitate to go. Those men were examples of all those who helped build the foundation of this country.

      I think of them, of my family and friends over the years who have served. I think of my son who serves now. They are in my thoughts every day and especially so today.

      • robfornow

        As your post yesterday on AtH; Love it or leave it brings forth the thought of the saying- “My country, right or wrong” Many of the ‘ex’ even though they may not agree with the reason, will still step up. A friend of mine, made three deployments to Nam, came back on a hospital ship three times. The only reason he left the service was because as a Marine, he was physically unable to pull another tour. It is that spirit that defines the warriors among us. I wish yours well.

  8. Jonathan, thank you for that poem.

    We had our Remembrance Service at the cenotaph overlooking Marshall Bay- no more fitting place to honor those who served. One VC, one MC that I know of. It’s a little Island but they paid high price for fat little burgers to sleep safe in their beds and complain about the military. I did my time, my brother did his, Both my parents and grandparents served (in opposing armies, in one war.
    Salute to the dead.
    They shall not grow old as we grow old.
    And respect and gratitude for the living who serve and have served. Thank you

  9. Pat Patterson

    Today: I had a chat with a gent named Bob while waiting for a haircut. We talked about Veteran’s Day; I was an Army medic, the hair stylist’s nephew (my son’s best friend) was a Marine with two combat tours in Afghanistan; my son remains hospitalized from injuries he received in a rocket attack on Shindand Air Base in SW Afghanistan. Bob left; later returned with his buddy. “We heard there is a veteran here. We want to pay for his haircut. And tell your son, thank you for his service.” Thank you, Lord, for such moments.