As we approach the coming holiday in which we celebrate veterans who served our nation, I hope that each of us takes the time to ponder what that actually means.
I am one who served with the Marines for five years; four during peace time and one serving as a vehicle commander running convoys out of Fallujah, Iraq. Those convoys, many of them hostile, changed who I am and how I will forever view life.
I’m no different than the millions of other veterans who have experienced similar situations. Many of these veterans are not in good situations, and I personally count myself blessed to have been through what I have and, as my counselor has put it, still be at the card table refusing to fold. But hey – I’m a Marine; expect any different?
However, there are as many as 22 veteran suicides per day, equaling pretty much one per hour. The men and women who served come home to a situation they are not prepared for, many times leading to broken homes, homelessness, and legal trouble (so often that many communities are implementing Veterans Courts).
In short, the price paid has been massive. In our time off of work (for some), attending parades, or while we see all the signs about Veteran’s Day Sales, I do hope we take the time to recognize the sacrifice those who served have made. Specifically, I do hope that when we see the remaining WWII and Korean Vets, we thank them for their service. As much as that, when we see Vietnam Vets, I hope we can all give them the “welcome home” they never received.
As I end this post, I do want to leave you with a poem I wrote during my final days in Iraq. I hope you enjoy.
From the Lexington Green to Fallujah,
Patriots have stood by one another,
In defense of our nation’s liberty,
Fighting with each man as a brother.
Now it is my turn to go,
And to stand for what I believe,
I will do my part to defend my nation,
And won’t quit my post until properly relieved.
The sand makes the sun a little more bright,
And beads of sweat roll down my face,
It is my first time outside of “the wire”,
This feeling I will forever embrace.
Time has passed, missions have gone,
Repetitive motion has taught me to stay calm;
Thoughts often revert to family and friends,
And also to the 91st Psalm.
But I have to remain ready,
For when it happens, it happens fast;
And there is nothing I want less,
Than for any of us to become a memory of the past.
Now time is getting short,
Though my posture remains erect,
And looking back on time,
I begin to reflect.
I have received the command “Lock and Load”,
A total of 94 times,
I wouldn’t choose to do it again for a million dollars,
But wouldn’t trade the memory for that 10 times.
I’ve witnessed the wounded and carried the dead,
Helpless on the stretchers they straddle,
I’ve been close enough to being one myself,
To make my ears ring and my brain rattle.
In time I will look to these days,
A time when I kept my honor clean;
It will always make me stand taller,
Not only because I’m an American, but a United States Marine.
Sgt. N. Ibarra, USMC