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  Home > Blogs > Buff Whitman-Bradley

Property Damage

As the producer of the Courage to Resist Audio Project from 2007-2009, I was the person who interviewed the GI resisters whose stories, originally posted on the CtR website, are the basis of the new Courage to Resist book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. I finished each interview with enormous respect for the young soldier with whom I had just spoken. These were brave, smart folks willing to look beyond and behind the official rationalizations for war; willing to take great risks when they determined that in all good conscience they could no longer participate in wars they came to regard as both illegal and immoral.

I also finished many of the interviews with a heavy heart for the damage that the wars had wrought on the bodies and minds of many of the interviewees. By making war on others, we make war on our own young people. This poem is based on one of the interviews. It was originally published in Liberation Lit.

Property damage

On the telephone from Germany

the young soldier says he wants out

He has gone AWOL two times, he says

to try to get the Army to discharge him

and says he’d rather go to prison

than return to Iraq

 

On the telephone from Germany

the young soldier recalls

the exploded body he saw

plastered against the outside of a house

the chunks of bone

embedded in the wall

“We laughed about the dead Haji

who’d blown himself up,” he said

“You laugh about it, or you cry about it,

or you say nothing and go insane”

 

On the telephone from Germany

the young soldier remembers

the daily mortar attacks at Bi’aj

and all the memorial services at Camp Ramadi

and the NCO whose head he held

while the medic worked on him

His body was riddled with shrapnel

His jaw was shattered

and his throat torn wide open

“Hang on, hang on,” the young soldier kept saying

as the man died in his arms

 

On the telephone from Germany

the young soldier talks about the day

members of his platoon killed a dog

that scavenged around their camp

They smashed her skull with a shovel

they slit her throat and her belly

they broke her legs

and stuffed her into a trash bag

and when they discovered that she had a litter of puppies

they killed the puppies too

and buried them

and put a cross on the grave

“They made a big joke out of it,” he said

“and we all laughed”

 

You laugh about it or you cry about it

or you say nothing and go insane

 

On the telephone from Germany

the young soldier says

that he has been burning himself –

“just to feel pain, to feel human” –

holding his palms to flame, raising large blisters

again and again

blister upon blister upon blister

and afterwards curling his fingers into fists

and squeezing the blisters hard

When someone saw what he was doing, he says

he was told he could be punished

for damaging government property

 

You laugh about it or you cry about it

or you say nothing and go insane

 

On the telephone from Germany

the young soldier says

he has tried to commit suicide several times

with vodka and pills

and when he has asked for someone to talk to

all they do

is recommend pills

 

You laugh about it or you cry about it

or you say nothing and go insane

 

On the telephone from Germany

the young soldier says

he has always tried to be good

he has always tried to do the right thing

and now he is waiting for some good times

waiting to stop checking for his weapon

whenever he leaves his room

waiting to stop looking for IEDs

as he drives down the street

waiting to stop thinking that every stranger he sees

might be trying to kill him

waiting for the images and memories to fade

waiting to feel again

without having to burn himself

and waiting for the Army to decide

what to do with this damaged piece of government property

 

You laugh about it or you cry about it

or you say nothing and go insane

 



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