Monday, December 5, 2011

How I Envied Them

How I envied them
Those men
Those conquering heroes
Who came home
With their minds
And bodies
Still intact

They came home
To a hero’s welcome
To parades down main street
To hugs and kisses
From loved ones
Left behind
When the sirens
Of war
Were sounding
And the greatest generation
Answered the call

They came home
(The lucky ones)
With all of their
Moxie and swagger
Still intact

They showed up at
Still in uniform
Duffle bags on their shoulders
With their battle ribbons
Across their chests

For the most part
They seemed to be the same
At first glance
Hardly changed at all
And yet
They were somehow different
More battle hardened
More battle scarred
Sadder and wiser
At the same time
With the sound of
Bursting bombs
And machine gun fire
Still ringing in their ears

Any sudden loud noise
Could make them
Suddenly flinch
As if by instinct

A firecracker
Thrown in celebration
At one of the many
Welcome home parades
Or a jalopy’s backfire
Could make them
Suddenly skittish
And jumpy

The sound of footsteps
Approaching them
From behind
Would instinctively
Make them flinch
And tighten up
As if they were
Suddenly transported
Back to the combat zones
From which they had
Just departed
Back into the Jap
And malaria infested jungles
Of the south pacific or
Back into the frozen fox holes at
The battle of the bulge

They had defeated
Hitler and Tojo
But not before
They had seen
The bodies of
Some of their best buddies
Blown apart
Right before their eyes

They had served on
Bombers and in
Submarines and
On battleships and
Aircraft carriers and
They had faced the enemy
In tanks
And in the trenches
Of battlefields in
Every corner of the world
And they had
Defeated their enemies

And now
The soldiers and sailors and
Airmen had come home
(The lucky ones)
And their war was over
And now the challenge
Was to make a life
For themselves
And for their families
In a peace time America
That was rich and powerful
And poised for greater
Achievements yet to come

Their victory
Though glorious
Had come
At a terrible cost
In human life
As thousands of
America’s fallen
Had to be left behind
Buried in a hundred different
Foreign battlefields
With crosses and stars of david
Stretching as far as the eye
Can see
This was the price
That had to be paid
The butcher’s bill
The price of victory

Philadelphia, pa. 2011

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