I spent 21 years in the military. I cannot claim to being brave, but I do know that I got up each day prepared to do my best because I was a soldier.
I wrote this poem back in 1982 while stationed with a Military Intelligence unit (I know, oxymoron) at Fort Hood, Texas...back when I could still run six miles.
It's not about me, it's just thoughts about what a soldier is, or might be. It was also written at a time when women had not assumed many of the roles they have since in the military, and, since it was written by a guy, it sounds like it. However, hats off to the women who wear the uniform. It takes guts and commitment no matter who you are.
There is no "universal soldier", so, the poem is a pastiche of my thoughts made up of personal experience, hear-say, and historical reading. It is NOT an in-depth analysis of what it's like to be a soldier, just an emotionalized overview of a world the civilian never sees.
Since I first went into the Army in the 1960's, my references to military life include such out-of-date images as C-Rations and Jeeps, not to mention bayonet training and hand-to-hand combat...guaranteed to prepare you to hit the floor in a funny position if you tried to use it in a barroom brawl. I originally used the word "C-Rations" in this poem, but changed it to "MRE's" since that was what I was eating in the field when I wrote it. We still had a few Jeeps, and I just don't get warm and fuzzy about HUMVEE's, so I left the "Jeep" reference in.
By the way, for the non-military, a couple of small explanations: "Top" refers to a First Sergeant, the highest ranking NCO in a company, and a "slick sleeve" is the lowest ranking private. Someone with stars on his shoulders would be a General, of course. However, since many officers begin their careers as "slick sleeves", many understand what it's like to be a common soldier as well...although some forget.
I'm lying in the mud, water mixing with my blood,
Perhaps I'm riding in a track or in a Jeep.
I'm cozy, safe and warm, far removed from any harm,
Except when I am too afraid to sleep.
I begin before it's light, and continue into night,
Whether slick-sleeve or with stars upon my shoulder.
I'm a boozer and a fighter, or a lover and a writer,
Puttin' in my time and slowly growing older.
Hair that's not been cut away, was brown but's getting gray,
My pocket's empty almost all the time.
My uniforms have creases that can cut a man to pieces,
I use words no dictionary dares define.
I eat MRE's instead of caviar, and often drive my buddy's car,
Because my wreck won't pass this year's inspection.
I can cross the desert sand, or any piece of land,
With just here and there some minor misdirection.
I'm paid nowhere near enough, to put up with all this stuff,
And the CO says I don't get paid for thinking.
Top's pushed me to the end, and then on around the bend,
Too proud to cry, I settle down to drinking.
I can't afford a spouse, but I have one...and a house,
Who would think that such a gal could love a soldier?
I can't tell her, or you, why I live the way I do,
With the pages of my life filed in a folder.
I gripe, but call me I'll come running, or marching to the drumming,
If you need my life, I guess that's what I'll give.
Like other soldiers gone to war, who paid the price before,
The price placed on the life we live.
I can't say that I'll be brave, when the flags begin to wave,
Tattered, ripped, and torn by deadly fire.
I can only say that I, hope to give it my best try,
If I claimed any more I'd be a liar.
I'm a soldier dressed in green, often looked at, seldom seen,
Please spare a moment now to see me well.
For there might come a day, when I'll be called away,
To spend a tour in someplace close to Hell.
And, I might just not come back, when I carry off my pack,
To an unknown place somewhere around the earth.
So, stop and give a smile, that I can take with me a while,
Cause money cannot measure what I'm worth.
29 March 1982 by Donovan Baldwin
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Donovan Baldwin, was born in 1945, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was raised in Pensacola, Florida, where he attended St. John's Catholic Elementary School, Pensacola Catholic High, Pensacola Junior College (Now Pensacola State College), and the University of West Florida (BA Accounting 1973). He served 21 years in U.S. military services, retiring honorably in 1995. In addition to his military service, he has been a program accountant and fiscal consultant for the Florida State Department of Education, the business manager of a community mental health facility in Milton, Florida, an instructor for a major corporation in the logistics industry, and an optical lab manager, among other position. He has been writing and publishing poetry, essays, and articles, for over half a century and has had several poems published in small, literary magazines.
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