a hero at the cost of my heart

i felt the weight of it around my neck
a medal of honor
of what they say is above and beyond
the call of duty
that day i didn’t know
that in moments our lives would be changed
that I would face decisions
made in instinct, in survival, in preservation
making sure that no man was left behind
and yet at such a cost
as i look around
the faces beam and there is pride
but not on my face
inside my heart is torn
i was a green young thing
entering into the fray
with the courage to serve
my country fearlessly
and on that night
i don’t remember fear
i don’t remember alot of feeling
i remember flashes, searing pain
seeing my leader down
fighting against all odds to preserve him
and the others that we were missing
when the ambush struck
my thoughts were not on myself
but on my comrades
brothers which blood didn’t bond
but rather experience
and shared nightmares forged our hearts
and in that day
that quickly turned to night
whether by day break or gun smoke
i saw it all move in slow motion
voices cried out
artillery shattering bones and the air
and I
and the rest of my team
surged forward
mindful of our lives on the line
and yet it not impacting our method of advance
i’m not leaving here
under enemy fire or not
until the last man is accounted for
and today
in front of a brightly shining crew
with faces full of joy and pride
i fight down the thoughts that mock me
‘why are you here, they aren’t’
and i strive to remember
that It could have been me
rescued from the enemy’s grip
but not safe from death
and I am torn
between the commendation
for what i did
what i hope all my brothers would have done
and i think ‘why me’
why not them…
the medal hangs heavy
reminding me of the burden i carry
being a hero
at the cost of my heart.

janel a/ Dec 6/2012
in reference to the introduction I read from a book called ‘Living with Honor’ by Sal Guita.

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