by Nathaniel McCoy

I am a Grunt
A knuckle-dragging ground pounder
We are the ones
Who are always
Strained to our limits
And then pushed farther
Expertly proficient in killing
Somewhat knowledgeable in saving each other's lives
We can disassemble and reassemble
Any of our weapons
In our deepest sleep
March for miles with no rest
Carrying half our body weight
In equipment and gear
A Jack of all Trades
We are not subject matter experts
In all fields
But we make do
We adapt and overcome
The rights that we protect,
We give up to do so
Freedom is bought
With Infantryman's blood
In combat, we feel the whole
Spectrum of emotions
In the most extreme sense
Pure hatred
Sheer terror
Overwhelming grief
I am not ashamed to shed tears
For my fallen brothers
There is a saying
"All gave some
Some gave all"
It is only true for the dead
I am not the same man I was
Before I came in
But I do not know
If it is for better or for worse
I have stepped through the looking glass
With none of the wonders of Alice
On the battlefield
Boys become men
Men become statistics
A number on the page
Stamped "Official Government Document"
Mass troop movements
Are planned and executed
At the upper levels
But it is on the ground
Where small choices are faced
With split-second decisions made
That make us
Or break us
As we suffer the consequences

At home we are
On the battlefield
With the killswitch engaged
A two sided coin
Fierce in battle
Compassionate in peace
We train to kill
Knowingly desensitized
To quell the basic human instinct
That aversion to taking another's life
We are given the worst of it
And try to make the most of it
Our sense of humor is insensitive and cold
An off-kilter sense of humor
Is important
To be able to laugh in the face
Of adversity
Our demeanor to most
Would seem brash and arrogant
We walk with our chests puffed out
And a swagger in our step
I feel that it is honor earned

But do not call us heroes
The real heroes are buried in Arlington
In the fields of Europe
The tiny islands of the Pacific
Rice paddies in Vietnam
The real heroes' wives
Heard a knock on the door one day
Fell the to their knees with tear streaked cheeks
Small children peeking from around the door
Knowing, but not fully understanding
Why daddy won't be coming home

We are forged in the fire
And baptized by blood
We step up, move out, and drive on
We take the high ground
And never surrender
We have earned the right to wear
Our cross-rifles and blue cord
We have paid the price and paved the way
So future generations can taste the sweet nectar
That is freedom
We are the Infantry

Copyright © 2009 - Nathaniel McCoy
Published: 6/25/09   ·  Author's Page   ·  Next Poem