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I bought this Army green vest last summer and I have worn it (at least once) almost every week since. Sporting a vest in this color is as close as I have ever personally come to the military though. I have never been a soldier, nor am I the girlfriend/wife of a man who is deployed... but I have loved a soldier. With all of my heart as a matter of fact.
My brother, Joseph, is 3 1/2 years younger than me, and when I was in college he joined the Army. When we got news that he had to leave his base in Watertown, NY and was being deployed into a war zone overseas I felt like I got punched in the stomach. The air was taken from my lungs and I immediately started bawling. Like... lost my shit... ugly cried... complete with a tear-soaked face (and shirt). I cried so hard that I hyperventilated. I could not breathe. I was not prepared for that news. I went out and bought a cell phone (before having one with you at all times was a "thing") and I kept that gray flip phone with me at all times. I was terrified that something was going to happen to my "Joe-Joe" and having that phone near me gave me some sort of weird comfort. Like he could reach me anytime he needed.
I am a big sister. It is what defines me. I am the oldest and the only girl in my family. I have four brothers, and if you know me, then you know that I love my brothers. I love them with a fierce love... like a mother lioness to her cubs type shit. Like, murder anyone who looks at them the wrong way shit. So having Joey so far away, and in danger every second of every day and night was torture. It haunted me, ate me alive. It kept me awake at night, and I started to pray again. A lot. I didn't even realize I was doing it. I could have been holding a full blown conversation with someone and praying for Joseph's safety at the same exact time. It never shut off. Never stopped.
Joe eventually came back home. Safe and sound. Thank God. He was forever changed. A man stood before me (one that I hardly recognized). I had only ever known by little brother... the boy. He was much more mature, weathered, somber, silent. He was still the same goof-ball, life of the party, sacrastic, shithead I had always known, but it was as if a shadow followed him around. We never talked much about it. I knew that when the time came, that he would talk, and not a minute before. Well, it's been 10 years and we finally talked. Two nights ago we were on the phone and he shard this poem with me. I was a hyperventilating, crying mess again... but this time it was a release. For me. For him.
Joey said that he woke up on Memorial Day and had all of these thoughts running through his head while he was in the shower, and that some of it (oddly) started to rhyme. So, he went downstairs and did what he does best... put pen to paper.
He read and reread what he wrote, and he had to get it out. He drove downtown and (last minute) asked to be put on the agenda for the Memorial Day celebration in our hometown. He read this out loud to our town that day. There were tears, hugs, handshakes, and looks that spoke a thousand silent words of gratitude from other veterans (and their families). My brother Joseph is a hero. For his service... courage... strength... and a hundred other ways in which he lives his life. I was so moved by this essay that I had to share it.
This is for our soldiers... for anyone who wanted to understand what it's like to be a soldier... and for anyone who has truly loved a soldier.
The fight is over, the ground is still, only smoke sustains,
Nothing moves, the air is thick and warm, muscles ache with pain,
Sigh real deep, without relief; rubbing eyes with soiled hands,
Knees grow weak; arms fall numb, realizing you’re the last to stand.
Wandering without aim amongst friends and foes, uniforms with blood soaked stains,
overwhelmed by the sight, left with the solitary thought of, Why did I remain?
The battle’s won, the next is only days away, our strength we must regain,
battles rage on, much is lost in War, but for survivors, much still remains.
A career soldier ready to pass the torch on to someone else,
hoping to regain time lost with family, fatigued with War himself,
learns his service inspired his only son to join the time honored tradition,
burns with pain to hear his son of 18 has fallen, leaving him to only bear witness.
Families receive triangular flags and dog tags for loved ones that sacrificed the same,
leaves the question ringing in the ears, of why we still remain.
Caskets lower to the sound of “Taps,” claiming the last person in the crowd left to cry,
families find comfort in knowing that the spirit never dies.
10 years now, living a life I feel I don’t deserve,
a life of love, happiness, and hope that should have been reserved, for better men that served,
men of strength beyond compare and faith that never failed,
legacy children of men of War, eager to set sail
men of courage, honor, and devotion, fighting for their belief in the cause,
those ready, willing to fight, ready to answer our Country’s call, when others only pause.
Waking from reoccurring dreams, plagued with the question of why do I still live,
when we’ve lost honest men whose only regret was that they had but one life to give.
Mothers, brothers, fathers, sisters, cousins, friends and veterans all feeling the same,
all asking God to please accept their loved one, and take away the pain.
This not a story for political clout or one for financial gain,
It is simply a soldier’s recall of life for those that still remain.
Guilty we feel for enjoying life, while others lives are being taken away.
The pain runs deep, hurt seldom fades, the hole in our heart will always stay.
Live your lives, find happiness and hope, but be sure to thank and praise,
those young men and women that serve and fight and sacrifice each day.
Honor them by living free, loving without condition, and allowing peace to reign,
They fought so hard and gave their all, they did not die in vain,
They fought so hard and gave their all, so we could still remain….
so we can still remain.