Blank Stares

Stretching after a hard won, too short sleep
I contemplate the coming day.
I don’t want to get up
But I have duties to perform.
I smell breakfast cooking in the mess.
The sun through my window
promises a rare day of tranquility.
Maybe I won‘t shake today.

The day goes to hell as a burst sears my eyes!
Mortar? I didn’t hear an explosion.
Doesn’t matter, I have work to do.
I grabbed my rifle and some clips.
Damn, I’m not loaded!
Sarge’ll kill me if he finds out.
The shells snap into the mags.
I chamber one and move out.

Got to find the insurgents and contain the situation.
My hands sweat, but I‘ve been here before. Too many times.
Clearing the first room I enter the hallway.
I am crouched when I see movement.
A voice pleads for me not to shoot
But I have been well trained.
I squeeze the trigger and
that familiar crack tells me for the moment at least, I am safe.

I wait a bit and clear the other rooms.
HQ is on the radio as I give my location.
Nothing to do now but wait and watch.
In minutes the squad is here.
Footsteps on the stairs tell me I have been relieved.
I report the building cleared and the insurgents downed.
I’m a little confused.
They are taking my rifle.

Their uniforms are strange.
Maybe this is the local security force.
No, they are speaking English but
None of us wear bright shiny badges.
As gentle voices lead me from the house.
I see my father lying on the floor in the adjacent room.
Tired old fool, I can‘t believe he slept through this.
Strange, I don’t remember the carpet being that color.

Our command post must have moved.
I’ve never been here before.
There are others here but none from my squad.
The blank stares make me nervous.
In debriefing I keep asking for Sarge
But there’s only this guy in a white coat.
I don’t understand what is happening
But it begins to sink in.

This country that I love and serve
Taught me to be a warrior…
Taught me to fight…
Taught me to kill.

When they were through with me
They never taught me to be a civilian…
Or to be a son…
Or to be alone.

I begin to understand and
My stare goes blank.

David E. Dunham Feb. 2008

Blank Stares

David Dunham

Overland Park, United States

  • Artist
    Notes

Artist's Description

Written from personal experience except, fortunately, my son didn’t shoot me.

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