THE THINGS THEY CARRIED
They carried P-38 can openers and heat tabs, watches and dog tags, insect repellent, gum, cigarettes, Zippo lighters, salt tablets, compress bandages, ponchos, Kool-Aid, two or three canteens of water, iodine tablets, sterno, LRRP-rations, and C-rations stuffed in socks. They carried standard fatigues, jungle boots, bush hats, flak jackets, and steel pots. They carried the M-16 assault rifle. They carried trip flares and Claymore mines, M-60 machine guns, the M-70 grenade launcher, M-14's, CR-15s, Stoners, Swedish K's, 66 mm Laws, shotguns, 45 caliber pistols, silencers, the sound of bullets, rockets, and choppers, and sometimes the sound of silence. They carried C-4 plastic explosives, an assortment of hand grenades, PRC-25 radios, knives and machetes.
Some carried napalm, CBU's, and large bombs; some risked their lives to rescue others. Some escaped the fear, but dealt with the death and damages. Some made very hard decisions, and some just tried to survive.
They carried malaria, dysentery, ringworm's, and leaches. They carried the land itself as it hardened on their boots. They carried stationery, pencils, and pictures of their loved ones real and imagined. They carried love for people in the real world, and love for one another. And sometimes they disguised that love: "Don't mean nothin'!"
They carried memories!
For the most part, they carried themselves with poise and a kind of dignity. Now and then, there were times when panic set in, and people squealed, or wanted to, but couldn't; when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said, "Dear God," and hugged the earth and fired their weapons blindly, and cringed and begged for the noise to stop, and went wild and made stupid promises to themselves and God and their parents, hoping not to die. They carried the traditions of the United States military, and memories and images of those who served before them. They carried grief, terror, longing, and their reputations.
They carried the soldier's greatest fear, the embarrassment of dishonor. They crawled into tunnels, walked point, and advanced or flew into fire, so as not to die of embarrassment. They were afraid of dying, but too afraid to show it. They carried the emotional baggage of men and women who might die at any moment. They carried the weight of the world, and the weight of every free citizen of America.
THEY CARRIED EACH OTHER,
Remember them this Memorial Day.
"EULOGY FOR A VETERAN"
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the mornings hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
"Soldier, rest! They warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows
not breaking. Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking."
- Sir Walter Scott
"Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE ............
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze
A young Marine saluted it, and then
He stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought, how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many Pilots' planes shot down?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, Freedom is not free.
I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin
of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
at the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, Freedom isn't free
--By Kelly Strong