The Soldiers’ Love

The following poem was in part delivered  in my presentation before the West University Rotary Club on November 11, 2010. I modified parts of this but the central theme remains intact. It is my wish that you understand the sincerity with which this piece was written.

Harry

The Soldiers’ Love

By Harry Shaw

 

More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” John Donne

Soldiers’ Love:

The soft tender embrace of a beloved,

The first wail of their newborn child,

Home and family.

Soldiers’ Love:

Angels on our shoulders,

The silent prayers of wives and mothers,

Coming home.

Soldiers Love:

The passing of the colors,

The singing of anthems sweet,

Duty to God and country.

Soldiers Love:

Marching to the sound of the guns,

The sergeant barking orders,

Chaplains on the line.

This Soldier Loves:

The shining copper pans left on the counter,

Remembering my mother’s kitchen,

The book of Love Poems by John Donne that sits on the shelf.

Farewell to a Soldier Loved:

The last words uttered by the fallen,.

Not wanting to say goodbye,

The crack of the rifles at the playing of taps.

The Soldier Loved:

Loyalty,

Service above self,

Honor.

The Soldier Loved and Remembered:

The hallowed green grass of Arlington,

Rows of white marble

An emptiness in my heart.

Sergeant Sean Luketina

Some days are indelibly burned into your memory. For me, one of those days is June 30th. Today is the day that Sergeant Sean Luketina died. I did not know Sean before Operation Urgent Fury; but, there has not been a day that has passed that I have not thought of him.

I live near the ocean. I find that the massive expanse of the sea helps me to put everything in perspective. Today Hurricane Alex is bearing down on the Gulf Coast south of where me and my family have made our home. In a strange way I find the immense power of a hurricane calmly reassuring. It helps me to feel small. I know too well what it is like to get caught up in the whirlwinds of life and the storms that churn in the Gulf of Mexico offer an affirmation of proportion in all things.

James Taylor sings the song “Walking Man” that I have never been able to get out of my head for many, many years. It is only now that I am beginning just now to add meaning to the last part of the opening refrain:

 Moving in silent desperation

Keeping an eye on the holy land

A hypothetical destination

Say, Who is this walking man?

 Who is this walking man? I am: a husband; the father who dotes on his daughter; always the paratrooper; eyes on the sky wishing to fly…again; a college graduate; a font of trivial knowledge; a teacher, sometimes the muse; always the seeker of truth; and I am the survivor of tragedy unspeakable.

Sean and I were wounded side by side in the misdirected air strike that took my legs. Sean was evacuated immediately as it was determined that he had the best chance of surviving. Me? If you ask Jean-luc Nash he will tell you that they really didn’t know where to start. I was a perfect mess.

It was a month later that Sean went into the coma. He was suffering from uremic poisoning and it was during the operation that the doctors at Walter Reed removed his legs that he went into the coma from which he would never awake. It was shortly after that that I got a letter from his mother. She told me about her son who had also lost his legs. She was looking for answers. She did not know that Sean and I had been shot in the same incident. I am not sure she found comfort in the truth that I wrote her. I can only hope that she did.

I visited Sean’s grave in Arlington in 1994 on the tenth anniversary of his death. I did not know that his mother had chosen to be buried with her son. It was a touching display of motherly devotion and this sight on the green fields of Arlington haunts me to this day:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He died one day shy of his 24th birthday.

Who is this walking man?

I am the keeper of memories of fallen heroes.

Rest in peace my brother.

Hardcore Harry