Welcome Home Soldier – a short story

We believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem…

We want to honor our flag and our country.”  Roger Goodell, NFL Chief
~

It’s about time that Roger Goodell…is finally demanding that all

Players STAND for our national anthem RESPECT FOR OUR COUNTRY”

President Donald J. Trump

 

INTRO ~ Welcome Home Soldier

 

The American way of war… a “war on terror” that according to economists at Brown University will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers $5 trillion. More than two million young men and women have cycled through these wars. More than half of them are wounded in body and mind. Twenty veterans from all the wars America has fought commit suicide every day. Fifty years ago, nine million soldiers served during the Vietnam war years. Add it up and over the past half century eleven million Americans have become cannon fodder as the U.S. fought senseless, possibly illegal, certainly homicidal losing battles in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and today has ground forces in 150 countries.

Many of our returning veterans need what every solider coming off the battlefield needs —care, money, support. What they’re getting is very little or none of the above. But for the 99.6% of Americans who are not in military service (as opposed to the 7.3% of living Americans who have ever served in the military), concerns about the adequacy of veterans’ benefits, about the need to spend over one trillion dollars to feed a military machine that never says “uncle” are “trumped” by the controversy over appropriate veneration of symbols. It’s a fire storm the media can really sink its teeth into and the rest of us can debate on social media. It’s a game played mostly by millionaire players and their billionaire bosses while the rest of us choose sides.

In the U.S., the meaning of patriotism boils down to a standing position and a flag salute. That’s the easy, empty stuff that make us feel like good Americans while we avoid the real duties of patriotism —holding our elected officials’ feet to the fire and demanding answers and solutions to the many crises the bedevil the world’s sole super power. Is every veteran who needs help getting it in a timely manner? Why do military contractors (Raytheon, Boeing, Grumman etc.) get no-bid contracts, submit wildly inflated bills, usually millions of dollars over budget and years late and get a no-questions asked payment. Why is the military unable to balance its budget, unable even to figure out from one year to the next how much it has spent, while veterans and their families submit claims for sorely needed benefits and find their applications lost in the bureaucratic tangle of shoddy oversight, computer snafus, and passive/aggressive record-keeping? What does it say about America’s priorities when an investigation by the VA’s inspector generals revealed that hundreds of thousands of veterans died before their applications for care were processed? http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/02/politics/va-inspector-general-report/index.html

Before you try to find answers to these questions or have the next debate about flag salutes and standing at attention, please take the time to read this little tale about one young man who drank the Kool Aid, believed the recruitment hype and came home to… Read it and find out.

 


He saw the sign as he was hurrying nowhere.   If the Walmart job didn’t come through.

Never thought about working at a dump.  Not much different than stocking shelves.  Too bad Rosie didn’t need help in the diner.  He could cook.  Like in the army before the explosion.  Not think about that.  Very bad they said to dwell on it.  Was thinking about it dwelling on it?  He tried not to.  Until the noise in his head brought it back. 

When they looked at him funny, he knew he must be thinking about it. 

Drinking coffee was all he could afford.  They told him he should see someone about his check.  They sent him a letter before they did it.  But he didn’t read so good anymore.  A couple of months later, the checks stopped.  He still had the letter.  See someone.  Get it straightened out.  He couldn’t fight the government.  Maybe they were right. 

Some of his buddies got real messed up.  After the explosion.  If he took the money, there might not be enough left for them.  He’d get a job and everything would be all right.

The people at Walmart were very nice.  He couldn’t work there.  They explained it real nice.  No experience.  Never thought about that before.  Must be plenty of young guys with loads of experience stocking shelves.  Should have known better.

He walked into the dump before he thought about it.   The man looked at him.  A funny look on his face.  He hadn’t meant to tell him about the explosion. 

He showed up at 7:00 like the man told him.  Don’t be late.  Very important to be on time.  Trucks lined up early to get rid of their garage.  Open the gate and let them in.  Help them with their load if they ask.

 

Right.

 

He didn’t mind doing it.  Nice people, guys mostly.  Asked where he came from.  Wouldn’t make that slip again.  Few sympathetic looks but no questions. He liked that. Not like his buddies.   Why did all his thoughts lead there.  Self-control the key.  Push the thoughts away.  All over now.  Past is the past and the present is.  Not at all sure. 

Good to have a job.  Made him feel like a man.  The guys who dumped their loads treated him with respect.  He could feel it.  Like one of the guys.  Like the way it used to be before the explosion. 

There it goes again.  Not for long.   With his first pay check, be sure to buy the medicine they told him would help keep the thoughts away.  Was it disloyal to forget them?  A buddy who saved his life once.  Wouldn’t be right to forget about him ever.

The funeral was real nice.  His folks did a real nice job.  The Captain came to present the flag to his wife.  Pretty little thing.  Kind of looked like she wasn’t’ there.  Like they hadn’t told her yet.  He knew they had.  It was the pills they gave her.  Like his.  To forget.

Funny, he hadn’t told them about his kids.  Little children looking confused.  Too young to tell them the truth.  Daddy wasn’t ever coming home.  Daddy was in heaven.  Is that how they told them?  All dressed up not knowing why. 

He came over to say hi.  All dressed in his fancy uniform.  Looking uncomfortable.  Probably the first time he had to do it.

He mostly talked to his dad.  Looked like a regular guy.  Wanted to know what really happened.  Tried to tell him until the noise in his head got so bad he couldn’t hear himself talk.  Dad was crying and didn’t know it.  Big tears running down his cheeks.  Blowing his nose in his handkerchief.   Wiping away the tears.  They didn’t talk after that.  Stood there looking at the coffin. 

He was the first one to get to him.  Looking down before the medics came and covered him up.  Others to take care of.  He knew all about that.  Triage.  They didn’t take him away until he bent down to remove the sheet.  Wanted to say goodbye.  Not make a fuss.  Two guys in the company took him away.  Help they promised.  He woke up in the hospital. 

After the funeral he felt empty.  He still had his pills.  Harder now he couldn’t afford more.

Quite a line forming while he was daydreaming.  Have to watch it.  They warned him about that.   Nobody yelled at him.  Not this time.   Next time maybe.

The foreman gave him his pay and told him he was through.  Too many complaints.  Sorry it didn’t work out.  Not everybody cut out to be a dump attendant.

The noise was real bad now.  Like the whole ocean.  The bomb went off when he was half way home.   He dived behind a rock for cover.  His buddy didn’t make it.  Lying on the road like a bloody stick.  Where had he heard that?  One of the medics.  His buddy, not a bloody stick.  Saved his life when he was about to step on it.  Pushed him out of harm’s way.  What he would have been. A bloody stick.

Had to make it home.  No safe place to step out here.  His buddy’s gun.  Where was it?  He needed it.  They took away his gun. 

Home where his mom waited.  Hard to tell her he wasn’t a dump attendant any more.  So proud of him when he got the job.  Told him to be careful.  Not make any mistakes.  He didn’t want to tell her.  Disappoint her so much.  Tell her tomorrow when he was sure there were no more bombs.

Would the Captain come to his funeral?  He remembered the letter from the President.  Framed and in a place of honor on the coffin.  Almost everybody was very proud of that letter.  Proud of him.  Not his wife.  She never looked at it. 

Letter from the President on his coffin.  His mom would cry.  She’d be proud though.  Better than being a fired dump attendant.  Much better.  He remembered what the Captain said.  Died for his country.  A real hero. 

Nice to be a hero.

Captain told his mom after he read the note.  The President had rules about his letters.  Soldiers who didn’t die on the battlefield didn’t get letters.  So sorry but you understand. 

The dump foreman sent a nice note how sorry he was.  Best dump attendant they ever had. 

 

 

TAGS: Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, VA, Raytheon, Boeing, GrummanRogerGoodell

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