Sunday, May 24, 2009

I am a Soldier

I am a soldier.

Long ago, I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me.

Nothing has released me from my oath even though it's over a quarter century since I last wore a uniform. Nothing ever will. For better or for worse, I am a soldier.

Long ago, I fought the battles of this nation in a war that had even then been declared lost, and a terrible waste. I went where my country sent me. There, to the best of my ability, I strove for victory in places called Tan Canh, Firebase Charlie, Ben Het, Kontum, and Polei Kleng.

I am a soldier.

I have risked everything for my friends and for people I never knew and probably never will. They would all have done the same for me. Most would do the same again today. We are, and remain, a band of brothers.

I am a soldier.

With my brothers, I share a heritage that begins in the earliest mists of the human experience and will continue until the last trumpet sounds, a heritage of personal sacrifice and desperate deeds done by desperate men in the face of great adversity.

At the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln stated "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. But it can never forget what they did here." And, like the soldiers of the 1860s, we dared and accomplished much.

I came home on a stretcher to a country indifferent to my sacrifice and that of my brothers. By the grace of God, I recovered. Tim died at a place called Ben Het thirty days after he arrived in country. Fred died in the Kontum Pass and now sleeps in Arlington. Dusty sleeps in the land he died fighting for, the site of his resting place undiscovered until recently. Bill spent nine months in captivity. Flame took a .50 through the chest and went on to serve until retirement.

Ultimately, we all took off our uniforms and assumed our places in civilian society, but we remain different.

We are soldiers.

Remember us.