A somber remembrance

As a veteran and a Marine today is one of those days that I am haunted by the past. I look to the left and right of me, no one is there but I still see the faces of friends who have fallen before me. Lives I’ve held in my hand but let slip through my fingers like water in a stream.

Dead baby jokes whispered quietly just under the ringing in my ears. Laughs shared; tears shed. My brothers in arms, my family; or at least the closest thing I ever had to family. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about how many of them, people I knew, will have their wives or girlfriends wake up in the morning and roll over to an empty bed, the warmth stolen from them just like the last breaths of their loved ones.

What do you tell a woman when you were supposed to protect the man she loved?

You tell her you did your best, then you shut up and she tells you exactly what she thinks of your best and where you can shove it.

I’ve attended more funerals than I like to admit. Made promises to mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and girlfriends. Promises I knew I could not keep but anything to give them one more peaceful night’s sleep. I’ve been called a hero and a monster in the same day, been thanked for coming home and told I should be the one in the box.

Frankly, I wish I had been, no one would have had to cry for me.

However, this isn’t about me, it’s about the impression those fine men left on me. They gave their lives to protect the guy next to them just like any one of us would’ve done had the roles been changed. People gravitate towards calling my generation lazy or useless. I’ve served with men that prove otherwise and I’m proud to say that.

Today is the day that I remember all the good times shared, and cry over all the good times that will never be. A day where I look over and see them, sun burnt, sand etched into the creases of their dirty faces, the contrast of the dark dirt on the skin makes their smiles seem even whiter. I can see it so clearly that I reach out to grab them and pull them home, only to end with a fist full of air.

Today is the day that I remember the last words, spoken to me by a friend:

I know you’ll keep me alive Sergeant, I don’t want to die.

Sorry Marine, but I did my best.

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136 responses to “A somber remembrance

  1. I’ve reblogged this on Tales From the Motherland, and commented there as well. This is a hauntingly beautiful post. The writing is eloquent; the thoughts sobering indeed. These are things we should all be looking at regardless of the date. My nephew left for basic training (anything but “basic”) for the Marines, this past week. I pray he does not face the losses you and so many others still struggle with. Images and memories that can not be (should not) be left behind. However, I hope you find some peace, and know that your service is appreciated, and that you did your best. Sometimes, our best feels empty; it’s not. It’s our best, and no one can do more. Remember that some of those lost friends, knew their last smile, were comforted and reassured by your presence. Having lost too many people I love, I believe that helps me go on. If it brings you any comfort as well, hold it close. Thanks!

  2. I have never been in war before but reading your writing here made me hold my tears. I wish people read and can understand your feeling so hopefully, there will be no more war on earth and someday you will earn your peace and peaceful sleep.

  3. I’m so sorry for your pain. But exquisitely written. Loss hurts and it truly stinks (I lost both my parents in 2012), I hope I don’t sound trite if I tell you that carrying responsibility for another one’s death is something none of your now deceased brothers in arms would want you to bear. Know in your hear that they are now ok.

  4. amazing story wonderfully for sharing this of what must of been the hardest time of your life i loved reading it thank you for shareing

  5. this is so beautifully written – straight to the point, no punches pulled – as it should be. im sorry to hear that people’s grief comes out in anger toward you but you are not to blame; as a previous commenter said – it’s not actually your burden to bear and i hope you can find peace with it eventually. thank you for sharing your story and more importantly, for your service! no words fully express the gratitude you deserve for such sacrifices.

  6. Beautifully written, expressed only in words that a soldier or marine could do. You are the people I like writing about because no one realises the hell you all battle on a daily basis even when you have left the service.

  7. You earthlings exhibit strange behaviour. you enlist in wars where you know there is guaranteed death and destruction and then come out of it bewildered by the damage. I find it vexing. please tell me why.

    lulu

    • I have debating about how to reply to this for a few days, I didn’t want to ignore it completely so I thought I would answer it the best way I can. There are probably a lot of reasons, one its an odds thing. Sure death and destruction will happen but there are fairly good chances it won’t happen to you in particular.

      There are societal norms that you contend with going from a combat situation to a non-combat situation, we are told not to kill and you are thrust into a situation where killing is not a choice it is a matter of survival, afterwards you are left wondering why you don’t feel bad for doing what you had to do and you sit and try to wrap your brain around it and what is wrong with you that you don’t feel bad.

      Then of course there is the hindsight problem. Hindsight is 20/20 and you are left to dwell on what you could’ve done differently to prevent the outcome. War will always happen, it’s human nature to overreach. But there are people out there, much like myself, who believe that bullies should be stopped at any cost so that people can live the life they want.

      I did it for the people we helped and because I didn’t want my brothers/sisters in arms to do it without me, I wanted to be a part of change with the hope that it will be for the best. Sure the aftermath is my burden to carry, I wasn’t surprised that it happened, it is afterall how we as humans cope with traumatic situations; we are taught this early on in our military career that this is probably going to happen to us. I just wanted to share my story for anyone else who might be interested and more importantly for the people with similar stories, so that they know they are not alone.

      While I might not appreciate the way your question was formated, I wanted to answer it because someone might just come along and read this, hopefully it will help others understand why people like myself enlist in a volunteer military. Or again it may help someone not feel so alone who is going through something similar.

  8. Reblogged this on iDream iLive iNspire and commented:
    This is just more proof of all the hardships our service men, women, and veterans face every day. As civilians, we need to put more effort into showing our appreciation for all that they do to protect our country. Tunes for Our Troops is just one way that I hope to achieve this personal goal of mine. Please please please show our veterans that we care even in the smallest ways. Give to the Wounded Warrior project. Hire veterans. Even just say thank you when you see them. I promise a simple “thanks” will go a long way.

  9. Hello Gabriel,
    I can truly empathise with you in a certain way. My story is different but the same in so far as I too feel responsible for the death of my mother, and this will only pass when I do, so I do know the pain you carry.
    There is just one thing to remember, it is not your fault! You did not start this war, you only ended up in the middle of it, so although you carry the pain, this is part of being involved in a war not of your making, so stop beating yourself up because it has happened.
    Had you died and someone else was writing then their story would be yours.
    It would not change because the story cannot change.
    ‘The Moving Finger Writes, and Having Writ Moves On’.
    But we move on, because we can, and they cannot, so in some way they merit someone doing what they cannot anymore! We would want them to do so, would they not want this for us?
    God Bless You and All Those Who Lost Their Lives in Wars Not of Their Making.

  10. Pingback: A year of Gabriel | Life of a Fallen Angel·

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