War Sucks.

In case you have never sat down with a veteran and talked about what happens on the battlefield, I want to tell you a secret: War sucks.

Over there…

No one can refute fox holes are nasty business. Yes, they protect from some projectiles and shrapnel, but they are also deadly, nearly inescapable targets.

No one denies the hours stink, the conditions are rotten and the pay non-existent. The training is grueling, the hours bite and a social life is lacking.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch…

The conditions are only better in terms of shelter and creature comforts. In the empty bed where your soldier should lie, fear, longing and loneliness are huddled stealing the blankets.

The masses who would not volunteer for such patriotic jobs toss unappreciative japes, snide remarks and pejorative epithets.

Western Union Telegram - 1880s

Image by Kordite via Flickr

Until one day…

A yellowed envelope in my hand
from another time, a total other life,
but it seems like only yesterday.

His brown hair was short.
His shirt had a patch: Western Union.
Mother knew why he had come that Thursday.

I held her skirt hem between my fingers,
as her trembling hands fumbled
with her change purse to tip the young man.

Her mouth moved, but no words came out.
He said, “You’re welcome, and ma’am,
I’m sorry.” Mother took my hand.

She slumped against the door. A
tear slid down her cheek and splashed
on the front of her blouse. I did not understand.

Mother stood up tall and tried to smile at me.
She asked me to go to the kitchen
to get her a glass of water to drink.

I stopped, turned and watched
as Mother touched Father’s picture in a silver frame
beside the sofa. He smiled at her, I think.

She stared at the envelope she held at her knees,
so I went to the fridge to pour some water.
I sat beside her and took her hand.

Western Union Office between 1913 and 1917

Image via Wikipedia

“Sweetheart, I know how much you love your father,
but I have to tell you something.
Do you know President Truman?”

“Yes, Mother, the President of the United States.”
I could not understand what he had to do
with Father or the young man.

“President Truman sent Father to Korea to be a soldier,
so that we can be free. He sent me this telegram today,
with bad news, I’m afraid.

“Father is not coming home. He was in a battle over there,
and he was killed. That is what
the President’s telegram said.”


Image via Wikipedia

“But Mother, you haven’t opened it.
How do you know?” She tried again to smile and
took me in her arms. “I don’t understand.”

Today my daughter called, “Can I come over, Mom?”
The silence of her tears was loud in her voice;
its timbre very plain.

I put on the coffee and pulled out my treasure chest,
filled with memories, some very sweet,
yet others filled with pain.

Her keys clattered on the kitchen counter
by the back door. The flash of paper in her hand
brought back my image of Mother.

She saw what I had in my hand, too.
“Mom, I can’t open it. I know what it says.”
One tear slid down her cheek, onto her collar.

Mother never opened hers.
I took my daughter’s.
Telegrams never change.


If this touched you, please tell me how.

Show gratitude to members of the armed forces. 

© Red Dwyer 2007-2011
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  1. War sucks. Those who volunteer or answer the call of duty are a step above the rest of us. They give their lives, often in terrifying moments. If they survive, they spend their lives remembering the horror of war.

    My uncle was Vietnam Veteran, and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. In Vietnam, he served in a front line medical unit, tending soldiers who had been grievously wounded and preparing them for the longer trip to a real hospital. Bombs fell around them at times and they were sometimes under direct attack. The enemy had no respect for a medical unit.

    Some of the horrors he saw had nothing to do with wounded soldiers or bombs or bullets or any of the usual things you associate with war. Someday, I may relate some of those horrors, but while certain people live, I will not.

    My uncle died last fall. He is greatly missed by his family and many other people, and he was a true hero. I’ve written a little about how he was remembered by his family.

    War Sucks.
    MJ Logan recently posted..
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    • Red

       /  March 29, 2012

      That was beautiful, Mike. Make sure to write down the things you know. I have to a small degree. I need to write them all before they are lost. If no one remembers, we are doomed to repeat it.

  2. Powerful and thought provoking as ever!

    • Red

       /  March 30, 2012

      Thank you, Candy. These particular survivors are often considered a weight on society without anyone recognizing their loss.

    • Thank you, Candy. This one does make one think in a little different terms.

  3. The sadness here is so clear and so heavy… your poem is weighted with love, empathy, and a gentle flow as well.
    Christy Birmingham recently posted..Friendship Is A WorldMy Profile

    • Red

       /  March 30, 2012

      Thank you, Christy. This one was born in the quiet reflection of knowing another soul laid to rest. Just hoped to shed a little light on the aftermath which never makes headlines.

  4. Such a soul stirring poetry, I am proud to be grand daughter,daughter and sister of brave hearts who have and are serving their nation guading the nation so that we get another day to dream to live to fight to love….
    Yes we should wherever we can help contribute and least one can do is take care of a Matyrs family
    Red i just love you 🙂
    Soma Mukherjee recently posted..The way the words hug…..My Profile

    • You are such a joy, Soma. I, too, am related to many who serve and two of my sons-in-law are in the military. This strikes very close to home for me. It is a thankless job many take for granted. Much love, Red. xxx

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