Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Faced a Man - Austin

War has been glorified in our culture. Movies make it a grand adventure. How does someone who has never tasted the horror even begin to grasp the reality? My Dad, at 87, is a veteran, although he never got overseas. He was grounded in the Air-force because he got airsick, so he patched up planes and sent them back out – and saw many of his friends killed.

As little as I understand of the realities and the horrors of war, there are times when I ache over how complacent we are about our freedoms. With troops in Afghanistan right now, whether we understand this war or not, and agree with this war or not, it seems to me that those of us in safety have a responsibility to those in jeopardy. I’m not sure how that responsibility should look for others, but war and remembrance are themes my pen has often tackled.

With Remembrance Day just around the corner, will you pardon me if I share one of the oldest pieces of writing I have saved. Written during college days more than 30 years ago, this is the piece that defined the release date of my book, Laughter & Tears, launched on Remembrance Day 2005.

There is a cost to war that is rarely touched on – at least in my reading. It is that cost this piece looks at – a cost I pray I never have to experience first hand. Perhaps it is appropriate that the formatting of this piece falls somewhere between prose and free-verse poetry, a no-man’s-land that both sides tend to take shots at.

I Faced A Man
Published in Laughter & Tears TP Nov 2005
Published in The Post Nov. 2005
Published in Laughter & Tears CD Feb 2006


It is raining; little more than a cold drizzle. For four days we have fought in this sullen atmosphere, with the smell of gunpowder and smoke, and the sound of guns in the air.

Yesterday, across a little clearing, with the grass charred and scorched, I faced a man.
There was no hesitation on the part of either of us. One of his bullets grazed my side. Four rounds from my gun smashed his chest. He died almost instantly.

He was my "enemy." This is war. But I am sorry.

I have killed -- how many times now? Still I am sick each time.

I am sorry. How empty those words sound. I wish there was something I could say or do, but there is nothing.

The letters he was carrying from you I am returning. I hope that in some small way they will lessen the grief.

There was a picture – he carried over his heart. Most of that picture, he now carries within his body. You have lost him, but he has not lost you.

I laid him under the trees where the grass was still green and no shells had scorched and destroyed. His rifle and helmet mark the spot.

The fighting is getting intense again. I dare not stay, or even carry this letter with me. I hope somehow, it gets to you.

I am sorry.

From a man who in better days would have shared a cup of coffee with the one I just killed.

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