These Good Men
by Michael Norman

I now know why men who have been to war yearn to reunite. Not to tell stories or look at old pictures. Not to laugh or weep. Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity.

I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another.

I cannot say where we are headed. Ours are not perfect friendships; those are the province of legend and myth. A few of my comrades drift far from me now, sending back only occasional word. I know that one day even these could fall to silence. Some of the men will stay close, a couple, perhaps, always at hand.

As long as I have memory, I will think of them all, every day. I am sure that when I leave this world, my last thought will be of my family and my comrades...such good men.


THE SILENT WARRIOR
By Karen A. Winnett

The fire fights have ended and the big guns no longer roar but the Silent Warrior's fighting like he's never fought before! No point man walks before him and no man takes the rear, no comrade stands beside him though death is always near!

He humps no hills or valleys and he sweats no jungle heat. He stalks no Vils or cities, yet has no road to retreat. His field pack long abandoned and his rifle gone to rust, The Silent Warrior battles, because, he has no choice, he must!

It's a long-range operation, the objective long and hard, to the Valley of the Shadow, where only Angels are. The Silent Warrior battles, where no soul should have to go, and no heart can ever reach him, for his battlefield's unknown!

Don't look to the north or south, don't look west or east, look to home and know the truth, this is where the warrior bleeds! His campaigns rage in silence, and he battles here at home, his courage goes unnoticed and his valor, few have known!

Behold the Silent Warrior, lost deep within his thoughts, his body frozen solid, never, never to unlock! What enemy could do this, what hearts could be so cold, to do him such dishonor, a brother of our own!

I look into unseeing eyes and I wonder where he is, and damn the souls who were taught to care, yet did a thing like this! Behold this valiant warrior, who never more shall speak, curled up in a fetal ball on antiseptic sheets!

His arms and legs contracted, his body old and frail, his honor stripped away and lost where love should not have failed! Look gently on this old one, who battles day and night, and let every warrior cry for him, until Valhalla's in his sights.

For such are the forgotten, not dead yet not alive, doing battle on the Veterans wards beyond uncaring eyes! Behold the Silent Warrior, who's stillness screams with rage, who wars in fields of solitude, and there, til death, he stays!

I have touched the Silent Warrior, and learned to know his pain, I have fed and I have bathed him, and cried when no one came! I have reached down to his anger and held his ruined hands, and I felt the battle raging, and I cursed, "Damn!"

Behold the Silent Warrior, who battles until death, honor him and know his face, stand guard beside his bed. For such are the forgotten, some lost and some abused, victims of a friendly fire we never can undo.

Yes, the firefights have ended, and the big guns no longer roar, but the Silent Warriors fighting like he never fought before! Go to him, and speak his name, and understand the truth, don't let him die behind the lines, the next warrior could be you!

Karen A. Winnett can be reached at gyrette@aol.com.
Post Script: This story is based on Karen’s personal experiences both as a patient and later as a Nursing Assistant at the Brockton Veterans Hospital. She says, “I hope it is just one of those little reminders in life, never to forget our own who have given so much."


We are all that stands between the Monsters and the Weak

The sun beat like a hammer, not a cloud was in the sky.
The mid-day air ran thick with dust, my throat was parched and dry.
With microphone clutched tight in hand and cameraman in tow,
I ducked beneath a fallen roof, surprised to hear, "Stay low."

My eyes blinked several times before in shadow I could see,
The figure stretched across the rubble, steps away from me.
He wore a cloak of burlap strips, all shades of grey and brown,
That hung in tatters till he seemed to melt into the ground.

He never turned his head or took his eye from off the scope,
But pointed through the broken wall and down the rocky slope.
"About eight hundred yards," he said, his whispered words concise,
Beneath the baggy jacket he is wearing a device.

A chill ran up my spine despite the swelter of the heat,
"You think he's gonna set it off along the crowded street?"
The sniper gave a weary sigh and said, "I wouldn't doubt it,"
"Unless there's something this old gun and I can do about it."

A thunderclap, a tongue of flame, the still abruptly shattered;
While citizens that walked the street were just as quickly scattered.
Till only one remained, a body crumpled on the ground,
The threat to oh, so many ended by a single round.

And yet the sniper had no cheer, no hint of any gloat,
Instead he pulled a logbook out and quietly he wrote.
"Hey, I could put you on TV, that shot was quite a story!"
But he surprised me once again -- "I got no wish for glory."

"Are you for real?" I asked in awe, "You don't want fame or credit?"
He looked at me with saddened eyes and said, "You just don't get it.
You see that shot-up length of wall, the one without a door?
Before a mortar hit, it used to be a grocery store.

"But don't go thinking that to bomb a store is all that cruel,
The rubble just across the street -- it used to be a school.
The little kids played soccer in the field out by the road."
His head hung low, "They never thought a car would just explode.

"As bad as all this is though, it could be a whole lot worse."
He swallowed hard, the words came from his mouth just like a curse.
"Today the fight's on foreign land, on streets that aren't my own,"
"I'm here today 'cause if I fail, the next fight's back at home."

"And I won't let my Safeway burn, my neighbors dead inside,
Don't wanna get a call from school that says my daughter died;
I pray that not a one of them will know the things I see,
Nor have the work of terrorists etched in their memory."

"So you can keep your trophies and your fleeting bit of fame,
I don't care if I make the news, or if they speak my name."
He glanced toward the camera and his brow began to knot,
"If you're looking for a story, why not give this one a shot."

"Just tell the truth of what you see, without the slant or spin;
That most of us are OK and we're coming home again.
And why not tell our folks back home about the good we've done,
How when they see Americans, the kids come at a run."

"You tell 'em what it means to folks here just to speak their mind,
Without the fear that tyranny is just a step behind;
Describe the desert miles they walk in their first chance to vote,
Or ask a soldier if he's proud, I'm sure you'll get a quote."

He turned and slid the rifle in a drag bag thickly padded,
Then looked again with eyes of steel as quietly he added;
"And maybe just remind the few, if ill of us they speak,
That we are all that stands between the monsters and the weak."

Michael Marks
Somewhere in Iraq
January 25, 2006


The Sheepdogs by Russ Vaughn

Most humans truly are like sheep
Wanting nothing more than peace to keep

To graze, grow fat and raise their young,
Sweet taste of clover on the tongue.

Their lives serene upon Life's farm,
They sense no threat nor fear no harm.

On verdant meadows, they forage free
With naught to fear, with naught to flee.

They pay their sheepdogs little heed
For there is no threat; there is no need.

To the flock, sheepdog's are mysteries,
Roaming watchful round the peripheries.

These fang-toothed creatures bark, they roar
With the fetid reek of the carnivore,

Too like the wolf of legends told,
To be amongst our docile fold.

Who needs sheepdogs? What good are they?"
They have no use, not in this day.

Lock them away, out of our sight
We have no need of their fierce might.

But sudden in their midst a beast
Has come to kill, has come to feast

The wolves attack; they give no warning
Upon that calm September morning

They slash and kill with frenzied glee
Their passive helpless enemy

Who had no clue the wolves were there
Far roaming from their Eastern lair.

Then from the carnage, from the rout,
Comes the cry, "Turn the sheepdogs out!"

Thus is our nature but too our plight
To keep our dogs on leashes tight

And live a life of illusive bliss
Hearing not the beast, his growl, his hiss.

Until he has us by the throat,
We pay no heed; we take no note.

Not until he strikes us at our core
Will we unleash the Dogs of War

Only having felt the wolf pack' wrath
Do we loose the sheepdogs on its path.

And the wolves will learn what we've shown before;
We love our sheep, we Dogs of War.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66


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