Retreat

Retreat

I watch with tears as you retreat
never from the war’s front lines
only further into the recess of your mind

your thoughts are plagued by violence and death
and you wonder if suicide is perhaps the best
way for you to surrender to your pain

your mind is wracked with feelings of guilt
for the families of the men you had to kill
and the child who’s life you had to end

but he was only playing pretend 
as the sunlight struck the barrel of his gun
he thought it was the right way to have some fun

and honor those who protected his land
then his blood soaked into the sand
while his father wept along with you

but you did what you had to do
your men were in clear and present danger
such is the life of an army ranger

There is a part of you that knows
that sometimes this is how it goes
while you protected your team

they surround you now, a protective band
telling you they understand
but you’re lost inside your mind like a darkened cave

You refuse to remember all the lives you saved
and the men you helped live another day
the ones you comforted at night

when the terrain was void of light
you held their hands and told them to hang on
they’d be with their families before too long

they flock by your side 
to show their respect
but you continue to deflect

from your terrors to theirs
because it’s easier to hear their sorrow
than try to look ahead to your tomorrow

With the pill bottles dropped on the floor
you tried to say I can take no more
but God’s not ready for you yet

and we aren’t willing to forget
the person you were before this carried shame
while you continue to feel at blame

Kill a kid and save your team
now he resides in all your dreams
when you cry out into the night

and wish for a death we don’t want
but for one you desire
so you can escape the hell fire

never forget who’ll be left standing
over your grave

your wife, your kids, and all that you gave 

This poem is dedicated to my nephew.  He did two tours of duty before the PTSD got it's claws in him and caused three suicide attempts in less than a year.  The last was this week.  If you're the praying sort, please pray for him and for all of us.