A Poet's Life

Mona Bethke

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Remembering a war torn father

I saw a photo today of a mother in full cammies hugging her daughter and the pained look on her face took me back in time…

Growing up as a military brat, I spent my entire childhood, and some of my adulthood as a military wife, deeply ingrained in “the life.”

I can remember my father going to war twice in Nam, and I can remember how shattered and damaged he was upon each return. His first return was the catalyst for a life of abuse for me.

I can remember my mother freaking out when his CO and the Chaplain came to the house, not to tell us he had been killed in action, but that he had volunteered to stay an additional six months beyond his one year obligation.

I can remember how much love and dedication my father had for the military, which is likely why there was not much left for my mom and I, but I understood his passion…it’s the same passion I have for writing.

I can remember my dad volunteering during Desert Storm to be a body escort and him telling me how families were spitting on him and calling him names as he presented their deceased sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers for burial. My father, made of steel, barely showing human emotions, had a nervous breakdown.

I support and pray for our troops every day, it’s in my blood.

I DO NOT support sending them to war. War is counter to the REAL human condition. We were not designed that way, we became that way.

I have decided to share a poem from my book, “Naked and Raw.”

An Ode to Our Soldiers

I am a poet in this poetry nation
free to spew words savagely implanted
by the revelation that
my somber thoughts
merge in empathy with
a million faces turned to ash

ashes to ashes
dust to dust
lie silently sweet child
in the cradle of
political aberration
like yesterday’s abortion
wrapped in today’s headlines
life defined by how you died
for a just cause

airwaves carry your face
to my living room
as you take the last breath
death wrapped in a flag
medal pinned to your
shattered chest
now at rest
though platitudes of your sacrifice
will not suffice to stop
the flow of tears
as days turn into years
torn family gazes at picture frames
of a life from birth to death
smiles frozen in time
as mother sings a lullaby
to the empty room
aching for the sound of
innocent slumber unencumbered
by the bullets that riddled your body

on the side of a dusty road
peace bestowed to the suffering
for just a moment
until another life is erased
for a lie
the smiling man
like his father
justifies the end of a being
that began in her womb
entombed in her mind
the first cry of a new life

ashes to ashes
dust to dust
lie silently sweet child
in the cradle of
your mothers heart
like yesterday’s creation
wrapped in today’s emptiness
life defined by how you lived
for future dreams

Bless our troops and hold them safe from harm, for they are an extension of us, and for us, they make a sacrifice steeped in humanity and love.

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