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Posts Tagged ‘veterans day’

Memorial Day…

It’s just a piece of paper, folded several times. Containing a few well thought out words, written over time. Times when things were quiet, sometimes by flashlight, moonlight, others; the light of day.

ww2-soldier-writing

One carries that paper till it’s ragged and tattered, nearly confetti. But one carries it close to the heart. And hopes it stays there till a guy or gal is home, unpacked, reunited, well fed, hugged and reassured by a night of quiet sleep in an old familiar bed.

Even then, the letter is tucked away, like a faded photograph or a misty memory.

But for now, the world is on fire, and the days all blend together in a nightmarish collection of close calls and cold sweats and all the “things I haven’t done yet…”, moments of lucidity, and others of utter chaos.

Then comes a fateful moment, a flash, a thud, a struggled breath, a pool of blood. A brilliant light, and a pair of reaching hands…one taking the letter carrier away to a celestial muster…And another to seek out the pocket where such letters are customarily stored.

marinecasket

 

There will be a flight, a Freebird home, and a gathering…where a tattered letter will accompany another typed on finer paper, with signatures and sincere thanks from a grateful nation. And too, a folded flag.

condolence

That tired piece of paper folded several times is now carried next to another heart, stained in tears and holding a new meaning and stark reality…all the things that could have been.

Look to the sky and give thanks… Happy Memorial Day.

boots

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I’ve combined my thoughts from yesterday together for you on this Veteran’s day, 2010

You may have noticed I have been paying tribute and giving thanks to Veterans and current members of the military all day. You can go to my profile and see them all there.

Don’t forget to pray, and say thanks every chance you get folks…

If you choose to learn a language, or join a friend at their church next weekend, remember this: That you choose to learn German, Japanese, Italian, Russian or any other tongue. If you want to worship Buddha, the Koran, the Bible, Jesus, Jehovah, Satan, or nothing at all…remember, the only reason you have such choices, is because of young volunteers (and former draftees) in the military defending those rights.

Last Christmas, I traveled to the house of a friend and her son Austin. This spring when he graduated high school, Austin left for Marine Boot Camp. He is currently training in Twenty Nine Palms, California. I never looked on this young guy as a potential hero when he was 10 years old and playing paintball. But in light of becoming a Marine in the midst of two current wars, I can only look on in awe and say thanks. Thank you Austin.

Because I served only vicariously, (as a friend and writer many who did serve have shared with me their experiences)…When I lay down at night, I will recall their generosity, but I will share no common dreams with them. My four older brothers all served in the army while I was in high school and told me they had, so I didn’t have to.  Today, and all days I have a lot of veterans and active members to thank.

I am good friends with an elderly Chaplain who was a tail gunner on a B24 bomber for 30 bombing missions over Germany in WWII. I am also friends with an 80 something year old veteran of WWII who was in the German army as a 15 year old. He believed in the cause, until he found out it was unjust and un-winnable. His friendship is as true as the other. Good men in a bad moment.

I love them both. Both taught me about forgiveness. Both taught me about the horrors of war. Both taught me to not forget. But mostly, they both helped me to heal the angers and fears I was brought up with…They need to meet, and one day shall…where there are no judgments to endure…and they will embrace, and find other; better things to talk about. That is what they taught me…

If you have a memory that haunts you from time to time, a moment that wakes you in a cold sweat from a life event…stop and think about our veterans and current members of our military that have years of such horror to live with and carry around for the rest of their existence. And know too they can only truly relate to those others who went through it with them, and that many of them were lost in the midst of it all.

When you’re on your boat, burning all that gas and just soakin up the suds and sun, remember there are and have been military folks at sea for months on end, being tossed by relentless wave and wind. They have superiority of the ocean and air, but at a huge risk to life and craft. Their days are nearly without end, smiles from loved ones are but memories…All so you can spend carefree days in the sun…

If there is warm sand between your toes, and you’re enjoying it…keep in mind there is a member of our military, man or woman, in the heat of a desert far from home with combat boots in hot sand, with hot rounds coming and going all around ’em. They are not having fun, nor are they aware of your bliss…but still they continue to do what they do, so yours is safe and without fear…

Matthew Landsman…Your humble scribe… Thursday, 11 November 2010armyboots

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I recently drove to Walla Walla, Washington, from my home some sixty miles away, to visit with my oldest friend, an eighty seven year old Chaplain at the Veteran’s Affairs Facility. We became friends this year while I was filling a six-month contract to deploy new computer equipment in the offices and medical facilities on the campus there.

Over a six-month period, beginning in early spring, I drove the stretch of two lane blacktop between the gap at the Wallula Junction and through the winding hills along Washington State Highway 12. This stretch of road is about thirty miles long, cutting a picturesque path through rolling hills and rocky outcroppings along the way.

This is historic country, settled long ago…explored by the likes of Lewis and Clark. The land is used for winter wheat, vineyards, cattle-grazing, horse pasture, and some row crops. Many dozens of old family farming operations mark the divisions of ground with fence lines. Some are new and painted while others are simply weathered post and rusted wire.

This is Americana in the West, the sort of setting described in a Louis L’Amour novel. Today, blacktop leads to gravel roads, streams lead to small rivers…America at its finest in a quiet evolving painting through the four seasons.

This road is kissed, sometimes beaten down by swirling winds that seem to come from several directions at once. I drove the road beginning in early spring, when there is little vegetation on perennial trees, few objects provided in nature to indicate the presence of a wind at all. Driving this piece of history some days became a bit of an adventure, when the prevailing winds were invisible to the eye while I drove. I often had to stop and open a door to see if either I had a low tire or if, in fact, the wind had cropped up from the Columbia River Gorge coming from the direction of Portland, Oregon to the west and out of the Blue Mountains nearby.

The ridges along this road are marked by many dozens, hundreds in fact, of huge windmills to generate power for the regional grid. But on a very windy day, the mills are shut down as the speed of the turning blades can’t be moderated after a certain point. So I might be driving in a gale with no real indication of wind at all, other than the adverse effect it may have on the handling of my lightweight car.

Over the course of weeks in early spring, as I drove this road, my writer’s mind had plenty of scenery to take in, many tales to extract from the farms and old buildings in towns with names such as Touchet, and Lowden. Wooden grain elevators and long ago abandoned buildings– that once housed stores, shops to repair tractor and plow, dry goods, a post office and bus stops– mark the way.

There was one thing sorely absent on the horizons, in yards of homes, businesses, shops…anywhere that patriotic souls reside, work, and gather along this historic stretch of western heartland…Flags. Visible from the highway I am able to count maybe a dozen good old American Stars and Stripes being displayed to mark pride and support of a nation at war for a decade now.

Solitary sentry in the wind…

This road leads to a campus that consists of buildings that existed since the late 1800’s as a military support facility. Fort Walla Walla is also in the vicinity…And now the facility cares for and counsels members of the military from every era beginning with World War II.  Americana is at its finest here…with little display of our country’s symbol to be found on the main road leading up to it.

While looking out over the countryside for indicators to help me gauge the wind as I drove, I was compelled to feel in fact that winds of change have led many of our citizens to inexplicably fold and store away the flags that once marked community far and wide, during times of both war and peace…Peace being earned during times of war…and sacrifices being made by so many to wage war and to preserve peace.

Since 9-11 occurred in 2001, our country has been involved in military operations abroad, attempting to root out the perpetrators of terror and discontent both here and at its source…Hundreds of thousands of military personnel have been shipped out, and into harm’s way, for the better part of ten years now.

I cannot understand why the flag has vanished from sight. I have no clue if folks are less patriotic, scared of our enemies, unhappy with the current political climate, or just too busy to remember to raise the flag…no matter I guess. So I drive with no traditional indicator of the speed and direction of winds outside my car, and the winds of change leave me wondering at the direction and speed of the state of our community and union here.

There are several irrigation pivots used to water various crops along this road. I see each pivot has an American flag mounted atop of it. This is a nice sight for a couple miles near the crest of a stretch of road known as Nine Mile Hill. About a half dozen of these circles are marked by the flag, and I am sure that along with a farmer’s patriotic stance, there is an operational reason for the flags being strategically placed there. It’s nice to see them displayed at the sight of a western extension of the American bread basket.

Nine Mile Hill irrigation circle…

Along this road, I met a recently retired U.S Marine. He was about ten years younger than my fifty years. He’d spent twenty years of his youth serving our country. In those two decades, I imagine he’s been called upon to serve in the first Gulf War, and perhaps the current involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan, to live away from family, and from friends–other than his brothers and sisters in arms. I can guess he’s been deployed to lands where foreign tongues and traditions prevail. I would further venture that a lot of the places and people he gladly protected and defended could have cared little, or not at all, of his sacrifice in their land so far from his home. Still, for twenty years he served, stood in harm’s way for strangers both here at home and abroad. That is after all, what American military members do in this world…

This handsome young Marine had a family too–a dedicated wife and two children, both a daughter and a son. In the midst of his time serving our country, he was busy also living the American dream…All the while, he selflessly stood ready to preserve our right to the American dream…and the dream to provide some semblance of peace, civility and a human dignity in any number of inhospitable places around the globe. That is what our Marines do…what young fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, nephew…and their female counterparts do in this great patriotic country. And today, all are volunteers from day one.

How did I meet this recently retired Marine, along this stretch of road in the middle of a historic piece of America here in the Pacific Northwest?

He and his family were stranded on the side of the road. They were within sight of several of those American flags atop the irrigation circle pivots. It was 107 degrees outside. I was sweating in my car even with the air conditioning laboring on high settings. There was no breeze, no clouds…Just the unrelenting sun. Even the buzzards were grumpy on this day…

I could see, for quite a distance, the back of a somewhat tired Ford Explorer with its hood up. I could see a couple hay stacks several yards off the side of the road. I could see two children in what shade a stack could provide…sitting atop a couple of stray bales off to the side, perhaps set there by dad. I could see a man and a woman several feet away from the kids, between the hay and the stricken car. I could see their frustration, the effect of the late afternoon heat and the fact they had no doubt been out there at the crest of Nine Mile Hill for quite some unforgiving time.

What I saw was a family, stranded in 100+ plus degree heat, many miles from shelter, water, help, safety…I had no clue if they had help on the way, if they were suffering from heat related issues, or of any other issues that might need tending to, in the middle of nowhere, on a God forsaken day. I couldn’t pull over directly because of the speed of my car and the quantity of traffic in the area, so I drove to a safe spot a little way up the road. I turned the car around and drove back to them. When I emerged from my much cooler car and into the heat, I waited to jog across the three lanes of highway there. I could see the tired look of gratefulness and frustrated resignation on the faces of the couple as they walked to greet me near their slumbered Explorer…I inquired into their condition, if they had water, a cell phone. I asked if they had help on the way…how long they had been waiting there stranded. We three adults peered under the hood of the car, discussing the state of repair, the symptoms of disrepair…the usual conversation when a family is stranded with a dead vehicle on a hot day.

I noticed then that the father/husband figure there in front of me wore a ball cap with markings to signify he was a retired Marine. I asked about his service. He replied, “recently retired…put in my twenty…” I shook his hand and thanked him for serving. I acknowledged the sacrifice he, his wife, and young family had obviously made while he served.

For a moment, I discussed the irony of his willingness to serve anywhere and any time since he was barely out of high school…for two decades. He discussed the fact that no less than a hundred and fifty cars had passed by this stranded family, without as much as slowing down. He did say I was the lone soul outside a State Patrolman to stop…but he quickly added the officer was “paid to stop”.

I was shocked and in utter disgust at the scenario I was a part of. I can’t imagine what excuse anyone would have to ignore what was obviously a family of four suffering on a hot day in the midst of little else other than haystacks, a few irrigation circles in the distance…with American flags at rest on a breezeless day…and miles of little else.

I mentioned the irony of his career and his service and his willingness to defend, to the death, total strangers in strange lands, at virtually any time, under any conditions…yet there he, and that beautiful young family, sat in the middle of his homeland, among those he fought to protect for all of his adult life.

The same country that sacrifices life and limb for sometimes unappreciative strangers, appears to be either afraid to stop and help a family today, or uncaring enough to not bother to step out into the heat, or even stop and crack a window to simply inquire as to the state of well being, safety, thirst, and rescue, of a man and wife and their two young children.

I thought about a lot of things in a few minute’s time…about the last six months of travel up and down this stretch of road. I felt my heart get heavy as I walked across the road to my car. Then I turned around and returned to the couple. I shook his hand again and apologized for the state of his country despite his twenty years to preserve our freedom here.

And before I turned away and walked away for the last time…I engraved the scene and moment into my heart and slightly saddened mind…and added a parting thought to the young couple’s memory of the day…I said, (and I said it in good humor) “In case you’re wondering about who stopped to help you in the middle of the heartland of Western America today…always remember…it was a Canadian…”

Matthew L Landsman

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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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Oh to step back, past that moment in time, when freedom was much freer…and those mighty towers still cast shadows and defined the profile of that city…when tomorrows were just the days after this one, and not just so many days or weeks; some measure of time since 9/11/2001.

wtc

On September tenth, there was merely the anticipation of autumn…simply the fading of summer’s embers, but the shadows were still long.

It was about looking forward to ‘’The Series”, debating who would go the yard…and who might fall victim to a slider going 98 and dropping like a rock.

September tenth was the day before my father was born…at least 68 years earlier
something wonderful had happened on 9-11.  They were hard times to be sure, but simpler and more innocent times as well.

Since 1992, the World Trade Center was but a wondrous place that I had visited, and I had stood on the roof of one of the twin icons. Movies based in modern New York City always featured the towers in that distinctive skyline. After that September 10th, any movies that included the towers were instantly dated as “pre 9-11.”

sept11lights

On September tenth, a line in time had yet to be drawn. Like the sixth of December in 1941, the tenth was but a prelude to another day that would change our world forever and redefine our entire existence. But in 1941, our enemies were more clearly defined and not too hard to find. Indeed, I long for the simplicity that prevailed still on September the tenth of 2001…

Then, we still slept soundly at night, not yet needing to know who had stolen away our naïve sense of trust and security…our knowing that tomorrow will be just another day. Memories of scud missiles, Desert Storm, the unbreakable coalition, stealth fighters and the last “just war” with ‘Stormin’ Norman’ at the helm, were nearly fading from our immediate memories.

On September tenth, we were oblivious to upcoming new buzzwords, like Flights 11, 77, 175, and 93…There was no ground zero, no mention of a north and south tower. Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden were minor players; irritants at best…but still in the wings, not yet the epitome of evil reincarnated.  The armor worn by our existing heroes showed a little patina; their deeds were a little dusty and the tales of those heroics had not recently been retold.

It was good… to be complacent and free of drama, fresh news footage, of a running total of sorties flown, of the billions approved by congress, of bunker busting behemoth bombs, of cadaver dogs, of no more survivors…images we could never have fathomed…of a loss of certainty in the world around us.  It was a simpler time…

On September the tenth, we were bored; we were anticipating the turning of the leaves, the last good days for boating, the return of Monday night football, and of kids returning to the halls.

And perhaps we took for granted the knowing we all would be coming home at the end of the day, maybe neglecting a parting hug, the obligatory peck on the cheek. And the uttering of a simple “I love you” might have been a little hollow, a little bit routine.

We weren’t as close to our neighbors on the tenth, as quick to notice a passing stranger and to smile at one another, eager to embrace the day.  We weren’t as apt to fight back tears when the flag was unfurled and a voice bathed the crowd in the beauty of the words of Francis Scott Key.

I still loved you on the tenth, but I might not have felt compelled to say so. It just never occurred to me that once I laid my head on the pillow, it would be the last night I would close my eyes without the possibility of visions of events of that day, and those that followed, filling my weary mind…of those stark surreal images that will mark this generation from that day forward.
On the tenth, our villains were whoever had taken our parking spot… the cop who cited you for going ten over while you hurried, nearly late to work… the team that’d last defeated yours. Our villains could still be easily found among us, as petty bickering and dissent among the ranks prevailed. On that tenth of September, we weren’t as united, not
as much in need and appreciation of one another as we soon would be.

And on that morning I didn’t wake you when I’d slipped out quietly on my way to work. While you lay there sleeping, I neglected to touch your cheek, to kiss your hair and went off not knowing that I would already be missing you five minutes down the road. The day that followed gave that gift back to us, and to me.

I had never uttered the words “nine-eleven” nor imagined the sight of tear-streaked ashen faces…or the “confetti of the anti-Christ,” as countless reams of paper took leave of the stricken buildings through shattered window panes, marking the end to peaceful sleep as it came fluttering down ultimately to street level in an agonizing confusing descent, dragging our hearts down with it…a metaphor of biblical proportions left to linger in mid-air, along with the accompanying dust and smoke, long after the sight of those blazing towers had become a part of the horror there on the ground…then a part
of the ground itself…a would-be grave in wait of the coming fill.

paper
On the tenth, I was a little euphoric and foolishly feeling secure. I didn’t love as deeply or unconditionally as I soon would. Nor did I notice as readily the good in the world that still prevailed. I was more at ease, but not as good a person, friend, neighbor, brother, or son, as I soon would be. I never wanted what happened next, but I am a more complete and worthy soul because of, and more importantly, in spite of the cumulative effects of the next days of events.
You might actually say, the day after the tenth found us scattered and nearly shattered by the work of the devil himself, but we were quickly gathered once more by the need for one another as we huddled together in disbelief…bound together again by the grace of God…mercifully lifted up as one in our hour of dire need.
I miss the bliss that came along with the tenth of that September, but I like camaraderie and oneness that found the collective lot of us in the days that followed.

Matthew Lyle Landsman

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Matthew L Landsman

10/02/2001 0`dark:30
In regard to 9-11-2001

Empty chairs at the tables of

one thousand homes — times six.

Pillows lie on beds,

forever to be cold.

Hearts that wait for a calming word,

souls longing for someone to hold.
I have been there.

To the summit of that pair of pillars

reaching so amazingly high.

I stood in wide-eyed wonder

at the city’s towering gems.

Now I stare in disbelief

at an empty space in the Apple’s sky.
I find solace in knowing that the scores of those lost souls

were lifted straight to a better place –

by the collective prayers of the witnessing world.

It’s true that tears have yet to subside…

true there are more that will be cried.

It’s true that so much we knew

will never be the same.

But I also know that with turning of the leaves

comes the day of Thanksgiving –

for the memories of our newest angels…

for the knowing that, while for so many,

there’d be no going home,

still God sent to them his most special…

in uniforms of blue,

and fighters of fires…

from outside the bounds of harm,

from the masses left behind…

Sent in…

so they would know

they weren’t to perish abandoned, unescorted or forgotten

I believe too, that beneath the fallen structures

opened a crevasse of fire and discontent,

vows to immediately deliver the doers of evil,

the terminators of meant-to-be-peaceful flights,

straight into the bowels of hell.
And too, the souls of unintended fate

were raised as quickly to a celestial journey’s end,

accompanied and tended to by those

we were taught as children were our protectors, our heroes…our friends.
Those of us that remain will long struggle to find the meaning of it all.

The vision of what will balance, then overcome and

topple the self elevated mongers of hate

to their deserved fate – still eludes me.
I cannot know the specifics,

except that the believers of what is good and closer to Godliness will

in the end prevail.

By the rising up of spirit, faith and oneness

of our unseen friends – I feel a surge of awareness,

of determination and strength,
born of sorrow, shock, anger, fear, love and compassion.

There has begun a healing,

both of the scars left on the land and the division of good people,

for reasons that now seem petty and self-absorbed.

Already, good has risen from the ashes;

new vows of reparation have

emerged from amid the smoldered flames.

I hope the world will never be the same

as it was before that day.

I hope we can love one another more deeply,

be sincere in our greetings and farewells.

I pray that Christmas and other faith-filled days

can see a return to their roots – and linger past the designated days.
The souls departed need to know that beyond our efforts to

deny the tormentors satisfaction from their deeds –

that true good can be derived from the

sadness and the

madness of it all.

Mostly, what we need is hope.

We can only find it in each other,

no matter who or where we are.

Like the man said, “Come together”…

I don’t want this generation to lose its own version of what was our “Camelot”.

Hey God…We could use a little help down here…okay?

Matthew Lyle Landsman

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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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