Twenty-six

Who are these men who are our warriors…these men who are our combat leaders, who protect our nation, who fight and die so that you and I can do as we wish in our daily lives?  Who are they? They are hardened mature men who carry the weight of battle as if there is no weight of battle…aren’t they?

                                                               
He was their captain
Commander of one hundred forty-two
Their job fight the war
Take care of the nation, and me and you.

The lieutenant was a good man
The captain’s number two
Unproven in life
He wondered how he would do.

The captain knew about love
Faces of wife and children always in view
But this deep feeling for his men
This love was something new.

It started the day of that first fight
When little Bobby Jones fell
Shot through the hip as the ambush was sprung
And time became hell.

As red and green tracer fire scattered
The early morning dew
Bobby Jones’ sergeant ran to get him
And was himself shot in two.

Up jumped eighteen-year-old Rodriguez
Ran to his sergeant’s side
Gave the hero water
Held him in his arms while he died.

Bringing the sergeant, Rodriguez and Jones
Crawled back to the line
The troops knew they had seen something special
They had witnessed the divine.

The captain struggled to keep his men alive
And in control of their fear
When they died, he cried inside
But never loud enough that he could hear.

Inspired by his boy soldiers
Guided by the captain
The lieutenant met unbounded fear in battle
And became a steel-hearted man.

In the fight on the jungle mountain that night
They were outnumbered five to one
Out of food and water
Ammunition, little to none.

“Ammo! Give me ammo!” cried the captain.
“Give us a chance!
We’ll hold through the night, and when it’s first light
Each of us will knock five off their mountain stance!”

The ammunition came
The battle raged
The captain and the lieutenant up and down the line
Like wild animals uncaged.

Through those awful hours as the carnage grew
And our boys had their way
Courage and discipline held them together
But it was love that carried the day.

The captain and the lieutenant
And their one hundred forty-two
The captain and the lieutenant
Known but to a few.

When they died on that rotten jungle hill
Taking care of the nation and me and you
The captain was twenty-six
The lieutenant was twenty-two.

Ray Kenneth Clark

February 17 ·

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