Just An Old Soldier
(March 27, 2009)
|He was bent and a bit out of style with balding head and
wrinkled skin. When he walked it was with a noted limp. His clothing marked him
as of the past. The look in his eyes left one to wonder what he had seen and
done. Was he an infantryman, perhaps at the Battle of the Bulge?
Or was he a Marine on Iwo Jima who clambered up those volcanic slopes seeking
out the enemy?
Could he have been a door gunner on some dirty Huey? His eyes told a story, yet
it was a mystery known only to himself and to his God. Perhaps his buddies had
died in his presence at some rubber plant in Nam. Sixteen men in one short flash
gone to a greater land leaving the soldier to mourn his own wounds and to mourn
even more deeply those who were, mere seconds before, alive.
Scenes like this give a hollowed depth to one's eyes and scores the memory as
with a living CD, which turns on at various times to addle the brain and return
one, for a season, to years now gone.
Could he have been a fighter pilot who followed a pilot friend down, down, down
until his friend crashed upon the ground in living flames, as he pulled out of
the dive, just missing the trees? This scene plays over and over in his mind,
though the years are far, far removed. He may have been a pilot in the Mighty
Eighth in a B-17 over German skies with a crew of mere youths who had left the
States just months ago. True they were in their stations; gunners firing 50 cal.
machine guns at ME-109's with deadly accuracy. As the brass from spent shells
fell on the aircraft floor making the sure sounds of battle, they remained at
their stations, doing what young men in war do - then there was that awful sound
and explosion which rocked the Flying Fortress, tearing off half a wing! The
pilot called for all to jump but no parachutes appeared - except his own! He, a
1st Lt., hit the German soil with the enemy surrounding him.
Off to a prison camp to barely survive for the duration of the war. Every night
the scene played over and over in his soul - giving that special look that
airmen have when a crew has been lost.
He may have been a member of the same squadron as my good friend, Emmit Bagwell,
who in the Mighty Eighth in Europe, flight engineer on that certain B-24, which
was blown off the runway in England by a sudden storm, causing the craft to
crash into a radar hut killing two Brits and then exploding with a load of
five-hundred pound bombs, leaving the scene with no evidence of a human being,
nor any likeness to the mighty B-24. This would hollow the eyes of any airman
for the rest of his life!
Then, who is this aged veteran, bent, wrinkled, balding, with those forlorn
eyes? Maybe he was spat upon after returning from Nam where we were not allowed
to win the war. Whoever he is, he will not be here long, and all the days ahead
may well be like the day I saw him; wondering who he was, and what he had seen,
and what he had done, and what had been done to him by those who blame him for
all the blood of all the wars.
Just allow him to pass. Hold your tongue and cross to the other side of the
street. Don't be so bold as to thank him for securing freedom.
C. Douglas Caffey
C. Douglas Caffey is a disabled veteran of WWII. He
served (1944-1946) in the 509th Composite Bomb Group,
58th Wing, Air Photo Unit, 20th Air Force, United States
Army Air Force. It was the 509th who dropped the atomic
bombs on Japan and did the atom bomb tests at Bikini in
the Pacific. A chronic sufferer of PTSD since WWII, Doug
is a former college dean. He started writing poetry
several years ago and though he doesn't claim to be a
poet, he does claim to write from the heart.
Comment on this article