I’m awoken by the call about midnight
An IED on the roadside
Hit one of our patrols – hit it hard
Casualties incoming, so be prepared.
I pull on my boots and tie them tightly
Thanking God this isn’t nightly
And head for the BAS to wait
For whatever is coming, however late.
The gunner is the first to arrive here
Screaming, gauze wrapped all around his head where
Ugly pieces of shrapnel arise
From sockets that used to hold his eyes.
They bustle him into the docs waiting
Who go right to work, his pain abating
But the screaming continues, gets me.
My helplessness angers and upsets me.
It’s obvious, I need something to do
The docs have me block the folks at the door
There’s more to come as the screaming subsides,
Because one more, outside the wire, still lies
What strikes most forcefully when he’s brought in
Is how white his teeth are in grisly grin
But everything up above those bright teeth
Is red, gelatinous goo – his brain unsheathed
That was over a decade ago
But through the years the screams yet echo,
Reverberating, bouncing through old tears
And me still helpless, still upset, still here.
Nor can I escape that toothsome grin
It comes in the dark, bright and unbidden.
Thinking of these men and their families, I say a prayer,
But I’m still helpless, still upset, still here.
God. I just don’t know what to pray for –
I don’t want to forget, don’t want to remember.
Will you think of these men, their families, our prayers?
Are you listening, upset? Are you here?
I desperately want to make sense,
To contain the pain within my intelligence.
But really, I want you to come into our night.
Just hold me, hold my men – just make it right.
The incident happened in August 2004. It is, perhaps, one of the most vivid images of that time to remain with me. I don't get worn out with flashbacks or any of the stuff people associate with PTSD, but there are some pictures we never get out of our minds.
All War All The Time
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