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Condemned With Honor

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Condemned With Honor

Post by Jim on Mon Jul 21, 2014 12:16 pm

I tried to publish a poem. It fell short of the 400 word minimum. I added another poem to it. It still fell short of 400 words. I added a short little flashback story. NOW it can be published. Here it is.



As I examine myself in a moment of reflection, I ask myself, “Do I pass?” My standards are perhaps set too high. I never seem to quite be as acceptable as I aspire to be. I look back and think that perhaps I should have been kinder at times. Maybe I should have been more charitable. I tried to be funny, but was it sometimes at the expense of others? I don’t know.

My judgment day will come I suppose. Who I am is a collection of choices I’ve made on my path. I accept the consequences of those choices. I was influenced by others and by events, but my choices were mine alone. Good or bad, I made decisions I thought were in my best interest at the time. I don’t lay blame on the outside influences. No one owes me anything.

I am perplexed though. I’m struggling with how I should process one particular snapshot of time in my life. From 1971 through 1975, I was in the Navy. I wanted to be a well-respected veteran someday like so many of my uncles were. Was I wrong?

I did two tours to Vietnam. In a box in my closet I have combat medals and ribbons and declarations of honor to my country. Yet, when I completed my duty, and returned to civilian life, I was shunned. My visions of being a respected Veteran were tossed in the dumpster with my uniforms.

That snapshot of time in my life had the most character building milestones of any period in my life before or since. Am I to bury it? Do I put those memories in the box with my badges of honor and keep them out of sight and silent? Those years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds of big and little sacrifices are part of who I am now. I think I made good choices, but so many others cast me out.

I love this country that allowed me to follow my dreams as I grew into manhood. I wanted to show my love by serving my country. It was twenty five years after my service duty that the first person, on the request of the speaker at an Elk’s convention, turned to me and said “Thank you for your service”. I cried, like I am now as I remember it like it was yesterday.

I wrote down some thoughts to share, but needed four hundred words to meet the requirements to publish them. That is why I shared my self-examination. I’m returning it to my box in the closet now.

The following words were written on behalf of those that are still silent. Those that sealed their boxes too tightly. To those who haven’t cried.


Incoming! Incoming! ……Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong…..
Now hear this. Now hear this.
All hands man your battle stations. All hands man your battle stations.

….. That time lingering echo that won’t be still.
The sounds of running boots on metal decks,
The squeal of hands sliding down ladders,
The canons and guns spewing hot lead
Those young voices shouting out tactical commands.

I see a blur of surreal visions
Sailors scrambling to their stations
The ships wake curving toward the shore
The sea splashing across the deck
Clouds of gun smoke
The fountains of water bursting up from all directions

I smell the powder
It overwhelms the fresh sea air
Yet the smells mostly come later
When the guns go silent
When the air smells fresh again
When the adrenalin stops pumping

The world returns
The surreal visions become memories
You can smell the sweat that drips from every pore
And the spent brass shells that litter the deck.

But mostly you smell the fear.
It waited
You were busy
You performed your duties by the book
Now it’s here.
You can smell it now.

And like an echo, the memories will keep returning

Each one had his own hell
The sights, the sounds, the smell
Surreal as it filled your head
Protected thoughts, relentless dread

No two pawns will be the same
No one to praise, no one to blame
Though paths were taken side by side
The pawns returned both far and wide

We mourn our past in different ways
To us it’s usually shades of grays
No right or wrong, or black and white
Different reasons for our fight

Don’t ask us what it is we feel
Your love and hugs will help us heal
Allow us space to search our souls
For it’s that space, where our bell tolls

_________________
Jim L Phillips
Surprise, AZ
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Jim
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