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.
By 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.
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