MIND THE GAP
photo by Buck Sargent
For God and the soldier we adore,
In time of danger, not before!
The danger passed, and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.
Mind the Gap or
The Tao of Modern War
Until years have you spent ‘cross the world from your loved ones,
In triple-digit temps short on privacy and bank funds;
Unless mags do you load vice mugs before work,
Pressed with graver concerns than the Boss is a jerk;
Pay heed to the gulf between civvies and warriors,
American Citizens; Citizen Soldiers.
Forget not our spouses who’ve endured more than average,
They’ve suffered with dignity, expected to manage.
Sporting yellow-ribboned magnets so cruelly disparaged,
Alone through the pivotal years of their marriage.
The times they have ‘a change-ed since our granddads were lauded,
Their excellence, their fiber, their cause never doubted.
Did they know what it was to be disparaged by journalists,
Protesters, college kids, Red-diaper activists?
Bygone is the era of the Stars and Stripes raised,
Our flag flown in triumph along V-day parades.
‘Twas a rite placed in stasis lest talking head cases,
Deplored our galling lack of cross-cultural graces.
Academia nuts deign to denigrate our profession,
Haughty tenured fanatics with a 40-year obsession.
Rendered victims or villains, yeoman’s service demoted,
Our patriots as jingoes; passé, outmoded.
Sly congressmen posture to charm the most cameras,
Jousting and jockeying for electoral advantage.
Antiseptic tank thinkers who prattle on C-SPAN,
Play up to the crowds of American Grandstand.
See Tinseltown slander our time in the sandbox,
Conforming to type and in accordance with script docs.
"Feats are for Hobbits, real-life heroes anachronistic,"
Watch how they scorn what they view as simplistic.
Professional peacemoms, lunatic fringe neocoms,
"I told you so" prime-pumped and perched on their lisps.
Sardonic elitists, perpetual defeatists,
Invertebrate ideological wisps.
The critics, the cynics, the skeptics, dyspeptics,
So quick to condemn us as all misanthropic.
How doth they judge fighters when few have they met?
Longing for new My Lai’s,
Thirsting for new Tet’s.
Medieval incitements we neglected to answer,
Scoffing in the face of long malignant cancers;
Enthralled with our scandals, portfolios, and navels,
Heedless to warnings they’d hit us when able,
To claim thousands in seconds, twin missiles on wings,
And stir a colossus distracted by triflings.
Embassies, truck bombs, flattened barracks, busy flight trainers,
Diplomats, bureaucrats, waylaid airmen, ambushed sailors;
No indictments, subpoenas, nor G-men in Riyadh,
Could satiate the blood lust of Generation Jihad.
Cast now was the die as our armies set sail,
To correct with the sword where the pen thus had failed;
All the speeches and rallies and cable news fuss,
Spoke in terms of surrender,
But by George, they meant us.
"Bring the troops home!"
"Wrong war, time, wrong place!"
Tired bleats of "Are we there yet?"
Absurd on their face.
One thousand... two thousand... twenty-five hundred...
Grave markered milestones with little context warranted.
Editorial ire kept on stirring the mix,
Unfriendly fire, better cover our six.
ROE second-guessing MSM zeal,
Al Qaedist nihilism, to them no big deal.
"Upon our signal, unleash syndicated hell,"
Gentlemen, prepare to defend yourselves:
Pensioned general mutineers, inordinate theocratic fears.
Pop cultured vultures for months descended,Scavenged Abu Ghraib unended.
Recruiting depots placed under siege, KIA funeral-crashing sleaze.
Haditha jarheads, "hang ‘em high!" Murthacrats can’t wait to try.
Paper of Record free to choose, national secrets for Page One news.
Saddamized Deal Or No Deal trial, Iraqi justice: O.J. style,
From riches to rags to spider holes, to tailored threads/patent leather soles.
"Stop NSA!" "Close Gitmo Bay!"
Top antiwar accompli faits.
Patriot Acted kabuki dance,
Why can’t they just give war a chance?
On this the appeasers so desperately cling:
"Hostilities have never solved anything."
British Crown colonialism... Soviet Block communism... Prusso-German aggression... Southern slaveholding secession... Holocaustic European tragedy... Rising Sun Bushido savagery... Generalissimo Italian fascism... Third Reich Nazi cataclysm...
Although horrid in deed, not the ugliest of things;
Fighting war on the cheap shot, waging politics by other means.
* * *
Jundis and shurtas, Iraqi patrollers,
Shot down and blown up or pelted with mortars.
Security forces trained from the boots on the ground up,
Uncredited valor amidst body count roundups.
Foreign jihadists and tribal omertas,
Turn on each other, both routed, Inshallah.
Though Arab versus Arab and Muslim on Muslim,
Long driven by the Prophet Mo (Peace Be Upon Him).
Shifty attacks from those dressed none more black,
Thy nature of the beast roaming free the Middle East;
Baghdad... Samarra... Fallujah... Ramadi...
Our rank and file hunters on insurgent safari.
Toting carbines and ‘fifties, 240s and SAWs,
Flashbangs and flex cuffs, and Kevlar and gauze;
Strykers and Bradleys, Kiowa gunships and tanks,
MREs, IEDs, Humvees... (no thanks!)
Though the instrument of warfare that 'ever dwarfs any gun,
To earn the trust of the people once the battle is won.
* * *
Whole seasons may pass without a trace of reporters,
From the streets of Mosul to the Syrian border;
Green Zone commandos lay sounder than embeds,
Though visions of Pulitzers still dance 'bout their tin heads.
Filing omens of doom like a skilled reverse-carpenter,
Drawing troop snarls of Thank you sir, may I have another?
Carnage attracts coverage like payouts tempt lies,
If it bleeds its gonna lead -- sunni outlooks won’t fly.
Objective J-schoolers with no dog in this fight,
Doling cash out to stringers who deliver on site.
Do such double-dipping locals with dubious ties,
Also moonlight as bellhops at the Hotel Palestine?
Plead my case, O Lord, with them that strive with me;
Fight against them, that fight against me.
Combatants in street clothes seeking cover behind women,
Still asserting all the protections of the Geneva Convention.
Fomenting chaos is the thrust of their aim,
Planting bombs on the corners, unconcerned who they maim.
The aged... young children... to them all the same,
For cowing of the masses through death in His name.
These long-time sufferers/first-time voters -- quite acquainted with fear,
Their ancestral lines calloused and accustomed to tears.
Out of a Baathist cultivation of decadence and violence,
Ran a Euphrates of blood demanding monastic silence.
But every dynasty has limits, brutal reigns that diminish;
A time to bury demons:
Sic Semper Tyrannus
* * *
Though their land is now free in the technical sense,
Rule of law not of men, outspoken dissent,
A swaggering press, a backbiting parliament,
All of the trimmings of consensual government;
A new dawn shall we see only after many moons hence,
When their Umma has chosen a side of the fence.
For only time will reveal what our actions have borne,
When old wounds have all healed, and the fallen been mourned.
Will seeds we have planted grow unencumbered and free,
Or sprout bitter fruit from an oft-poisoned tree?
Long hours, longer faces, routine tasks fraught with danger,
All of this and more for the benefit of strangers.
Our lives and our futures, our fortunes and honor,
Pledged till the charge is kept,
But not one day longer.
We’ll demand not of others, to have walked in our shoes,
Least of all once we’re privy to what’s been passed off for news.
We’ll expect no commendation for the impossible we’ve done,
Nor charity for all, so long as malice toward none.
We ask only for consideration of the veteran’s refrain:
Withhold judgment upon us -- give history the last say.
The benefit of perspective, the abstention from blame,
A courtesy we’ll gladly extend all the same.
Though an occupational hazard, the moral gaps that divide us,
Need not be a bridge too far,
To the ties ultimately that bind us.