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Posts Tagged ‘military tribute’

When I was a kid, some summers I was hired by a neighbor to house sit for them while they ventured out of town, state, or the country, on vacations, charitable missions, etc.

It didn’t matter to me the reason for their leaving; I made sure their place and property were safe and secure. They were neighbors, practically family, and worthy of my best attention and intentions.

I have a family of my own now, and a home. With the same intentions of looking out for my neighbors and community on a larger scale, I joined The Guard. To be sure, there were both civic pride and some perks involved.

Then came the call, the leave from my job, from my family, my home, my neighborhood,my community…eventually my entire country. I am not complaining about serving and the general duty I signed up for. We gotta stop them where they are, so they won’t come where my family lives and assert their less than ideal ideals on me and mine. I’m all for preserving liberties at home.

We live in a modest house, drive a modest car, and live a modest life back at home. I ain’t asking for anything extra. But the pay from my hard earned career ended the day I was called up, and that little stipend from Uncle Sam is, well, little.

I remember when the Apollo 13 astronauts were stranded in space, they were granted a grace period in which to file their income taxes. They were looked out for while in peril during their service to our country. I too am far from home, and in peril, in service for my country. And I’m not alone here in my situation. I’m surrounded by thousands that are willing to take a bullet to protect me. And they all left family back home too.

But back in the world, there’s trouble at my home. While I’m here doing whatever it takes to preserve life there for the masses, my wife has an empty pantry, an empty bank account, no insurance on a barely running car, and an empty feeling inside.

She doesn’t want to distract me here, to make me less attentive and cost me lost sleep, lost attention to the dangers around me. She’s gotten food stamps, bus passes, and calls from creditors over the basic necessities. Last week they shut off her power in the middle of a cold snap and she and the kids got to “camp out” in sleeping bags till she was able to use the neighbor’s phone to call and beg for help from the PUD.

I’m in the middle of a hostile desert serving my country, while some in my country show their appreciation and patriotism by seeing to it my family stands to starve and freeze in their own home.

Although our little fixer-upper house is yet to be fixed up like we planned, she’s being told that may be the least of our worries, as the numbers are becoming a little more than we can handle. She may have to move in with her folks so some banker can see to it that some opportunistic soul will pick up the note on our home (after that same banker takes it out from under us).

This, while I serve to protect that banker’s right to drive a car worth about as much as the home he’s taking away. So much for returning the favor and house sitting for this soldier’s family while he’s away.

I have no doubt the sons and daughters of bankers aren’t likely to be serving in this war, nor would their families ever be put out in the street so daddy could foreclose on their bungalow in the Hamptons. No other way to put it, my life back in the world is being looted while I protect strangers, a world away, from being looted by their neighbors and their own flimsy government.

While I struggle to preserve my life in a war zone, my life at home is being allowed to be taken away from me and mine…

And I hear an echo from 1969, Woodstock, another war, and another anthem of the time…Country Joe and the Fish…”and its 1, 2, 3…what are we fightin’ for? Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn. The next stop is ‘IraqistNam’…”

I’m not stranded half way to the moon, but I may as well be. At least those boys could see home from where they were perched. I feel as if I, and mine, have been left hung out to dry, and that my home might not be there when, and if, I do get back.

I know my neighbors at home are busy covering their own asses, but hey, we’re hanging ours out here in a big way… and promises are evaporating like a puddle of water in the desert wind. Far as I know, one of my ‘neighbors’ there may very well be the one taking away my home while I serve to protect his rights and his home.

What the hell is wrong with this picture?

MLL Summer 2008

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I was barely shaving when I left home, had barely been kissed before I
shipped out. I missed that whole part where one has fun growing up. I
sorta skipped over it and learned how to be a part of the team, the
solution, the big stick some fellas back in Washington like to use to
get their point across.
God, I’m tired…I’m way too young to have grown so old. And I wonder; can I ever really go home?

What am I to do when I get home? I haven’t been anywhere without my
pack, flak jacket, desert fatigues; rifle and sidearm, bandoleer and
ammo, for over a year. Gone anywhere without a hyperactive awareness of
looming death. I haven’t walked a block without a possibility that I
may have to take a life to survive walking another, for far too long.

What am I gonna do with all that quiet keeping me awake at night. I
fear the thunder of a kid’s 4000 watt stereo in his tuner car will be
reminiscent of artillery and the battle raging.

What am I to do on the fourth of July when the flags are raised,
burgers are grilling, and fireworks are exploding? Will I go back to a
place where death was abound? Will I be lost in the moments that might
never pass, in a state of confusion you won’t understand?

Who will I turn to when my squad is no longer at my side? Who will have
my back when the nightmares find me back in the midst of the fight, the
smoking charred HumVees, melted roadways and broken souls? Will I ever
feel at home again after living in this impossible hell? Will I hear
the sounds of the departing, the prayers and confessions that were
desperately offered up while the shit was going down?

And will people sense and resent the places I’ve been, the things duty
had me do, the horror I’ve witnessed and been a part of? Will they
sense the disregard for life I had to adopt for extended periods, the
instinct to survive and protect my fellow compatriots first? It was
just my mission…Will they sense what I’ve gleaned and will it be
misunderstood?

And what about the loss of trust in those around me? That luxury was
lost about the time I watched a morning market transformed to a scene
of slaughtered innocents without prejudice or regard. Exploding cars
are indiscriminate and callous. You just can’t imagine, even after
seeing the footage on CNN. There may have been survivors after the
smoke cleared, but even they were victims of what will prove to be
impossible to comprehend. I know I’ll never be the same. Nor will
mornings ever be the same…

I’m gonna need a place to lean, some souls that know the score. I’m so
full of what I hadn’t imagined, what I never really wanted to know. I’m
gonna feel the thump of artillery rounds, when it ravages the air and
assaults the ground. I’m gonna smell the smell of smoking rounds as the
lead takes leave of the barrel and a rainfall of hot brass makes a
spattered puddle of death around my feet. I’m gonna be filled with the
scents of fear that have surrounded me as a sense of fear enveloped me
and those brave souls that have lived, fought, and died all around me.

I’m gonna want to talk about it, gonna need to cry out loud, gonna have
to hold it in, gonna fight to keep it together. I’m a little afraid I
might feel this way forever, but it’s not the way I want to feel again,
ever.

I’m thinking, always thinking. Dreaming, sometimes wake up screaming. I
wonder who’s gonna want to share my room, who’s gonna have enough heart
to help me rediscover my dreams.

And I wonder if I’ll ever be able to stand the feel of gritty hot sand.
Sand belongs at the beach, in memories of childhood summers…now it has
become the stuff that stole my childhood, took away the joy I’d kept
inside. I know I’ve been fortunate to have escaped with my life, but in
truth, the life I lived before I deployed escaped the second I stepped
off that plane. The life I’ll live with has been unfolding in front of
me, and in the midst of this bedlam; lives have unraveled and been
shattered. Folks have been robbed of everything that mattered. Oh I
know this is the stuff that war is made of, but I never imagined that
same stuff would become an anchor within my mind and a shard of
lingered hurt in the heart in me.

To be sure, I’ve made some of the tightest friends over here, and I
hope we don’t simply wind up scattered in life’s wind. They’re the only
ones that will truly always understand…so I hope we’ll somehow manage
to keep in touch.

But I’m also gonna need some other special souls to reintroduce me to
the world at home. Some to hold me when I cry. I’m gonna need all of
you to be there when I get back. I need to feel your thanks, your
patience, and your willingness to accept there will always be some
things you won’t understand. And your wisdom to help me deal with parts
I won’t ever understand.

And please, be a good soul and keep in mind that the most painful and
misunderstood injuries can be ones that never break the skin. The most
decimated souls might be the ones with no outward sign of wounds at
all. Don’t forget that in war, we all become casualties, but some of us
aren’t fortunate enough to carry scars you all can see that make the
damage easier to accept and understand.

I only carried the weapon, the pack, the body armor and helmet for four
years, but I’m going to have to carry the residue of service to my
country forever. Discharge papers don’t wipe the slate or the memory
clean, but they might make a lot of folks at home forget to take care
of those who gave and keep giving so much to take care of them. I was
there for you in your hours of need, please be there when mine
arrive…I’ll be back presently, please see to it I find myself a home at
home.

Matthew Lyle Landsman
June 2008.

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I heard about a good old boy sheriff named Joe in Maricopa County
Arizona. Got himself an idea to save tax dollars and put some bad guys
to work to save that money. Makes those criminals grow veggies and
hogs, and take care of stray critters till someone takes them home.
These tough guys are living behind barbed wire with just fans to keep
‘em cool in a lot of sun-baked tents. So hot them rugged desperados
gotta strip down to boxers and socks to make it livable. Seems them
misguided souls are getting’ to thinking this is inhumane treatment and
a lot of pity parties are being thrown behind the bar-less crowbar
hotel in the midst of all that cactus.

I got a few thoughts to help the poor incarcerated lot of you out in
your hour of need. SHUT THE HELL UP, CRIMINALS! This is your punishment
for screwing up, so suck it up and be a man. There are folks over here
been doing time in this war zone for years now. Three, four tours in
REAL heat. Not resort heat like you pansies lounge in. They don’t worry
a whole lot about strutting and representing like you sorry little gang
bangers in your summer camp. These folks get to wear full battle gear
day and night, get to worry about a population full of psycho suicide
tendencied jihad driven madmen. My fellow compatriots left spouses at
home, kids, folks, pets, real jobs, and a country full of grateful
citizens. And here’s the best part. These are bullet dodging, do
anything they’re asked without whining or flinching warriors…and a
whole lot of these real tough guys are GALS! And they aren’t being
punished for crimes. They are just volunteers with more balls than you
pathetic repeat offenders. And here’s the clincher…Some of these gals
and guys have no idea when they’ll see home again. Some of them will
only go home after they have given their all and make the last part of
the journey under a flag.

You punks cry for your mothers when the nights get long while you’re
doin’ time. I can tell you some of my fellow volunteers were calling
for their daddies and moms when the blood was flowing and their hope
was fading. But these gallant men and women in arms weren’t going to
lose their dignity even in the face of death.

You could learn a great deal from even the slightest of these brave
souls. All of you. Trust me, 120 degrees might as well be 200 when the
flack jacket is filled with sweat, boots are baked feet in hot sand
ovens. Then throw in firefights, incoming mortars, suicide bombers,
roadside bombs and a culture that looks down on our women. That is
heat.

So grow a set, convicts. ALL of us over here already had ours long
before we stepped off the planes, and some of us are better known as
‘mommy’ back home.

Give ‘em hell, Joe in Arizona, and tell the campers we’re over here
fighting ‘cause they are otherwise unavailable to step up and lend us a
hand.

Signed, the true tough guys and gals here in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A tribute to our armed forces…by Matthew Landsman

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