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.
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