That American Soldier

He is in full dessert camouflage and boots standing on a sidewalk not far from the Sears and Roebuck Merchandise Pick-up Entrance. He is an American soldier. At the moment he is talking with someone on his cell phone. His posture is straight, strong. He is powerfully built. I put him somewhere in his twenties.

My window is down as I slow my car in front of him. I start to tap my horn to draw his attention but as soon as my car slows I have his attention. His eyes are locked on mine. Still on the phone, watching. I think slowing cars must carry a different meaning for him.

Looking at each other I say, “Thank you – and stay safe.”

He relaxes into a genuine smile. “Thank you, sir,” he says, and he means it.

“God bless you, bro.”

We nod to each other. I slowly drive away. He returns to his phone conversation. I am suddenly near tears, so much so I can barely see to drive.

Why the tears?

Was it his youth? Was it the distinct feeling I had that he was saluting me when he said, Thank you, sir, when I should be saluting him? Or, was it simply heartbreak at the ineffable violence he has witnessed and endured? Was this compounded, perhaps, with my firsthand knowledge that nothing, not even dessert camouflage and boots, protects any of us from the split-second blood-drenched carnage of bombs and bullets, of violence?

That young man, that American soldier. That mother’s son, wife’s husband. That brother’s brother, sister’s brother, that grandson, that flesh and blood human being who deserves his life, as do so many others. And while all of us should be willing to go, none of us should be called to go based on lies, born of the maniacal minds of the Bush-Cheney disgrace. Those two should be in jail.

That American soldier should be free.


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