The Soldier's Wish
by Evelyn Held
It was my choice. I walked away from quiet neighborhoods full of families going about everyday tasks, with everyday concerns about managing mortgages and raising families. I have those concerns to, in my way. But I also have others that they cannot even comprehend. I was no different from them once.
We used to romp together at the playground, concocting impossible adventures, or shooting hoops for hours that seemed like they could never end. We dreamed about being grown up, wondered how to make a first date happen, survived classroom weekdays and lived for Saturday nights. Somewhere, despite all those commonalities, I went a different way, and it changed me.
I wish I could say I knew it would. Maybe I did in part. I was inspired by honor, committed to service, compelled to loyalty. As my curling childhood locks were shorn for the first time, I began to understand that the path of the warrior is different. It involved a suspension of self, a loss at times so powerful yet imperceptible at moments it shocks even now. Discipline. Honor. Duty. There is no "Me" in that: only the dedication to service.
And there is death. The unexpected relationship, the unseen member of our martial clan. Death reviews strategy, drills earnestly, prepares for and joins the march - always unseen. As we file off, rank upon rank, Death is there. We never know exactly where or which. Then Death appears, in the smoke and conflagration, unexpectedly flanking, or even out of nowhere. After a while, you come to know that the specter walks with you, every step, whether he hits your target, or the target of the other.
My family would like to understand, those that have never served. They cannot, fully, and I cannot explain it to them. What they cannot comprehend they try to make up for in pride. I know they are proud of me. I feel their pride mixed in with their love like a soothing, curative balm that can never quite heal the scars I carry. I know that they will never be healed, only adjusted to - absorbed. I hope, with everything I am and everything I ever was, that they somehow begin to understand what my service - my sacrifice of self - really means.
Poems and stories (2000w or less) can be submitted at the drop boxes on LEA 4, or by emailing them to caledoniaskytower at g mail (dot) com. And YES, feel free to illustrate your submissions!