Under my bed I keep a box of treasures
three photographs, three medals, and some letters

On the stationery, handwritten, is a list of names
Blood brothers from the war games.
Adams, he was a gunner.
He was our crew's fastest runner.
But we hold no races stateside-
Adams hasn't yet learned to run
on prosthetics.
Or Harden, our scout,
always the first to make it out.
He succeeded at that in more ways than one.
When he got home and tore his mother's house up
looking for his very first gun.
Or Johnny from Jersey,
with the Van Gogh ear,
who went home through hospitals,
spent seven months in the type of hospital
that we talk about the least
and is the only one out there
still talking about peace


The medals.
One purple, one bronze, and one silver.
The heart means that somewhere deep in my hip
I have fragments of a bullet
and explain my limp.
I never even saw him.
He was a sneaky fella.
But I figured out what luck was real quick.

The first star is the story
of the night that we were flanked
in the downtown maze of Bagdhad
and Troy, who thought he was a superstar
got us in to more trouble than we asked for.
I don't like to tell that story much.
So suffice it to say
we all made it out of that one alive.
We have not always been so lucky.

The other star doesn't belong to me.
I keep it for safe keeping.
For Joey from Boston who is afraid that he'll pawn it
He's not sure if it means what it should mean to him yet
and I say, I understand man,
Cause Joey can't forget the sounds of the desert
Joey can't forget the hands that he held
and the prayers that he said
that didn't work out right.
Joey is still fighting the fight.
And he knows where he's at
sleeping on friends' couches
and living out of his ruck sack
but he still wakes up in terrors
still wakes up screaming save me
And I want to save him
I want to save him but he is on his on recon mission here


The photographs are different though.
This first one, in black and white,
That's my great-grandfather two days after D-day.
With the boys that he told stories about
until the day he passed
at the age of 86,
still telling us about the sand in his boots
that he never could get rid of.
Even after 50 years of living in Indiana
with no ocean for miles.

The second one, in faded color,
my father in jungle greens
standing with his m-16
at the age of 19,
so fresh, so clean.
Posed next to a palm tree,
like this was a vacation.
Just here seein' the sights, ma'
He wrote home in a letter
Said things were boring there
but about to get better.

The last one, myself,
in a crisp green uniform and posed
American flag at my back
beret on, ribbons at my chest.
Looking my absolute best
I used to be proud,
I remind myself,
to wear that uniform.

And I still am,
but in entirely different ways.

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