Accidental Astronauts

by Lynn Norton

Poem


One Young Soldier

by Jack Tompkins

sketch


Ode to a Desert Warrior

by kimberly green

Poem


From Hopelessness to Dignity

by Nila Bartley

Poem


My Indelible Military Career

by Katherine Iwatiw

Prose


Flamingos in Miami

by Katherine Iwatiw

Photograph


What It Means to Be a Veteran: Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

By michael mcbride, Army, Navy

Writing Type: Poem

By Michael Fuller Mcbride

VA Medical Center--Milwaukee, WI


I should have known.
I am the son of a Vietnam era veteran.
I should have known.
We spent two years on a naval base in California
during the height of the Vietnam War.
My parents’ best friend was shot down over Vietnam.  
Every night we knelt by our beds and prayed
for “Uncle Art to come home safely.”  
They found his remains and he was buried at sea.  
My mother flew out to the aircraft carrier
to escort Art’s widow.
I should have known.
I grew up in a country striving to be a more perfect union.   
A bastion of freedom.
I should have known what it means to be a veteran.
Then I watched two towers crumble
while ordinary people faced a choice of jumping to their deaths
or dying in the fire and rubble.  
And the ordinary people who charged a cockpit
knowing this was their last desperate act for survival.
What does it mean to be a veteran?
To care about something so much you are willing to die for it.
To voluntarily forfeit your independence
and put your life in the hands of total strangers.
To subject yourself to all manner of scrutiny, examination
and harsh conditions.
To immediately make lifelong friends with people
from all across the human spectrum,
and not care about their color, creed or caste.
To work as a team toward one goal: complete the mission.
To learn how to be lethal in the service of others and the mission.
To write letters of love and apology to a spouse and children
to be opened and read in the event of death.
To prepare oneself physically, emotionally and spiritually
for death, including suicide in the event of potential capture.
To stand next to a 19-year-old soldier
as he determines who will get his death benefit.
To be in a hospital in Germany and sit by the bedside
of a teenager who just had his leg amputated,
and call his mother in Iowa, waking her up to tell her he’s alive.
To crouch in a bunker while bombs burst around you and realize
for the first time that this is what it means to be an American.
To watch hundreds of American soldiers in formation
at the Al-Faw Palace in Baghdad
as they took the oath as new US citizens.
To fish in a canal in a boat at night with an Iraqi doctor
who stated there was no PTSD in Iraq
because all Iraqis have been traumatized.
To watch Tongan Marines perform a Haka
before destroying the combat medics in volleyball.
To play hockey with Slovakian soldiers

on a cement slab in Kandahar
while temperatures hovered around 110 degrees.
To buy a chess board for my son in a bazaar,
while listening to the Afghan merchant describe his dream
of a safer world for his children.
To watch flag-draped caskets loaded onto a cargo plane
on Memorial Day,
knowing there are grieving families waiting in Dover.
To come home but never to come home.
To feel happiness but always colored with guilt for surviving.
To be ordinary and live each day with memories
of the extraordinary.
To become emotional every time you hear the national anthem
and gaze on a fluttering American flag.
To do penance by sitting with veterans at the VA,
listening to their stories of resilience and recovery.
To walk through a Veterans Cemetery knowing each stone holds
a sacred story of service, sacrifice and purpose.
I never knew what it was like to be a veteran,
until I became a veteran.

What It Means to Be a Veteran: Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

by michael mcbride

Poem


God's Touch of Sunshine

by Gene Groner

Photograph


Casualties

by Daniel Allen

Poem


Withdrawal

by David Cahn

Prose


From Hopelessness to Dignity

by Nila Bartley

Poem


I'm Thinking Today, My Love

by Anthony Cocozza

Songs Lyrics