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Forgotten Soldier

Andrew Allen

 

Our God and soldiers we alike adore, Ev'n at the brink of danger; not before; After deliverance, both alike requited, Our God's forgotten, and our soldiers slighted. - Francis Quarles, 1632

 

I am a soldier is a statement which usually receives the obligatory response of "Oh, isn't that nice," with no real understanding of what a soldier really is.  Unless you are a soldier, or have been a soldier, you are likely to have no true depth of understanding to what it means to say "I am a soldier."

You sit at home in bed, watching the evening news and see thousands upon thousands of people starving in a third world country or dying by the hundreds in the fighting in the Gaza Strip. "That's so terrible!" you say, then you turn off the TV, go to bed and dream your dreams where the human suffering you saw on the news doesn't exist.  It isn't hard to turn off the images that strike your eyes, your mind, and your heart when you watch the news because when the TV goes off you are back in your own peaceful world.  A world where you are safe because you live in a country that is the freest on earth, where democracy reigns, and the strongest military power in the world resides.

You, the average American have no real understanding of what makes our military the strongest power in the world.  It all really comes down to this:  The American Soldier.  An appropriate definition of an American Soldier is the protector of the greatest nation on earth—sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  Not many people remember soldiers anymore.  Over the past twenty years, you have pretty much forgotten me.  When you hear on the news that the U.S. is sending troops to another country for whatever reason it may be, you shrug it off and don't think anything else about it.

I am a Soldier.  I am the nameless, faceless young man or woman who cross your TV screen.  I am your guardian.  I accept partial responsibility for the fact that you, the average American, have forgotten me.  I have done my job so well that the United States has never been invaded by a foreign power.  No other country would dare to wage war against us.  So as a result, you only hear about me in passing news stories turned off half way through as you go to bed.  I want to remind you who I am....

I am a Soldier.  I got the call to leave my family and go to a tiny part of the world to fight for freedom and democracy.  I fought and won. It wasn't a war, but I lost some fellow soldiers there.  I remember that small part of the world where some of my friends paid freedom's ultimate price.  It was an island called Grenada.

I am a Marine.  I served my country and its interests in a foreign country.  I didn't have any personal interests in the politics involved, but I got the call and I did my duty.  I gave my life with more than two hundred of my friends in a bomb blast.  The place was Beirut, Lebanon.

I am a Soldier.  I jumped into combat, came down in a hot drop zone, fought and won a "Just Cause".  I restored order and maintained peace in the land and protected our nation's interests in the area.  The people of that country praised me and appreciated the sacrifices that I made.  The country was Panama.

I am a Soldier.  When the call came to liberate a small country invaded by a neighboring dictator, I didn't question, I responded.  I fought not only the enemy, but also the elements.  I protected the interests of the United States in that region and liberated Kuwait from the boot of Saddam Hussein in "The Gulf War".  And yes, I and some of my comrades died.

I am a Soldier.  I went to a country that most Americans didn't even know about.  I gave humanitarian aid to the people of this country and fought some fierce fights in the course of protecting them from their own government.  I had no interests there; except to help my fellow man.  Some soldiers gave all in the country of Somalia.

I am a Soldier.  I helped put a stop to political unrest and gave humanitarian aid to a country and most Americans don't even know I went.  I stood my ground in the line against hundreds of rioters in Haiti.

I am a Soldier.  I provided humanitarian relief in a country devastated by natural disaster.  While I helped the people of this country, my family waited for me to return home.  It was Honduras.

I am a Soldier.  I fought to protect religious and ethnic minorities from genocide in their own countries. I am still there, protecting them so that maybe they can have the life similar to and the comforts taken for granted by the people who have forgotten us.  I am in Bosnia and Kosovo.

I am a Soldier.  I stand in remembrance of others who fought and died on the ground that I now stand.  The country is not my own, but I protect it against a constant threat from another country.  I have maintained vigilance in this small corner of the globe for fifty years. I am in South Korea.

I mentioned a few places where soldiers fought and bled because these are the forgotten places.  I do not ask for glory, battle or blood shed.  I plead for peace.  I understand, however, for peace to exist in the world, somebody must fight for it, and somebody will die preserving it.  I accept that because it is the life I have chosen.  But, I never asked to be forgotten.

The downsized military is at a point that it's beginning to resemble a stripped out car in a junkyard.  The missions are still there, and the Soldiers are still going, but there aren't many of us left to make the trip.  My training diminished because my mission demands are too great.  I jump from country to country on deployments.  I watch my children grow up in pictures and leave my spouse waiting for my short-lived return.  I vote for a presidential candidate that I believe will remember me and who will help America to remember me, but my ballot is thrown away.  I am forgotten again.  I will protect America.  It is what I signed up to do.

Even now, as you rest comfortably in your bed, I stand a wall.  I walk a perimeter.  I stand a guard post.  Don't worry; nobody will hurt you on my watch.  All is secure.  That's all I wanted to say.  You can turn off the TV now.  Let the images pass of the forgotten Soldiers who have served you well and gave their lives in the name of freedom in foreign countries that you didn't even know about.  You forgot me because America isn't at war.  At least not on my watch it isn't. 

I am a Soldier… a forgotten Soldier.

 

Copyright© Andrew Allen