Submitted by: Patricia Palmer

Category: Poetry

I Am An American Soldier
By Patricia Palmer

It’s mid December of 1777 and the place is called Valley Forge. It is a terrible winter. I have no shoes and my feet are wrapped in old dirty rags. I am exhausted after marching for miles. My feet are frozen and I have left a trail of bloody footprints. My belly aches from hunger. The winds howl as I sit around a small fire eating fire cakes made of flour and water. I have dysentery and fear I will not last the winter but I am an American soldier and I will survive.

It is a hot July summer day at a small village called Gettysburg. I have lost most of my friends and now Pickett wants us to charge across a large empty field with no cover where we are hugely outnumbered by our enemy. I fear a wound much more than death. I could not bear to have an arm or leg sawed off in a field hospital while I am awake. There is no glory in war as I thought there was as I hugged my mother goodbye so long ago. Why must I go? I only know that I wear grey and my enemy wears blue, yet one day we will wear the same uniform and fight again as brothers on a foreign field. I am an American soldier.

It is the winter of 1917 somewhere in France. I have lived for weeks in a narrow trench filled with mud and water. I dare not stick my head up to peer across no man’s land and so I wait to hear the shrill sound of a whistle that calls me to leave safety and cross that barren land and take those few yards of soil. Tomorrow the enemy will take back that costly soil, crawling through mud mixed with American blood shed a day earlier. I know the feeling of breathing in the terrible mustard gas that burns the skin and lungs as I desperately try to put on my gas mask. All is not quiet on the Western Front. I will fight till the end and I will prevail. I am an American soldier.

It is June 6, 1944 just as dawn breaks over the English Channel off the coast of France. I have already cast off my breakfast of ham and eggs as the waves from the rough seas roll over the top of my Higgins boat. I am nineteen and a buck private. I have not yet fallen in love or tasted the joys of youth but I will fight and die for my brothers next to me. Yesterday I was a boy but today I became a man. The ramp is lowered and the sound of machine guns from the enemy tear through the boat. As I jump clear, I am pulled to the bottom of the sea by my 80 pounds of gear. I remove my pack and equipment and float back to the surface desperate to breathe fresh air only to see the bodies of my friends floating in the water and the sea is red with their blood. Bloody Omaha is not my friend but I must run toward the danger. By Gods grace I will not die this day. Perhaps tomorrow but not today. I will survive and fight for those who will not see tomorrow. It is for them I will live and fight. I am an American soldier.

It is December 1950 and I am a medic near the Chosin Reservoir in Korea. The politicians call this a “police action” and not a war, but my brothers blood is just as red no matter what they call it. It is minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit and we are surrounded by nearly 70,000 Chinese troops. We are only 30,000. My buddies are dying all around me and the calls for “Medic” drown out all other sounds. I must respond. All of my medical supplies are frozen and I must put the Morphine syrettes in my mouth to defrost them before injecting them into soldiers crying from intense pain. The ground is frozen and so are my feet but I will do my duty and help my friends who need me. They call me “Doc”. I am an American soldier.

It is Hue Vietnam, January 31st, 1968. Hanoi says it will observe a seven day truce for the Tet holiday and maybe we will get a few days break from fighting. Suddenly all hell breaks loose all over the country and 80,000 Communist troops attack everywhere almost simultaneously. They don’t know what a pissed off nineteen year old Marine can do. They have asked me to see and do what a creature made in the image of God should not have to see or do. Who is the enemy? It could be a twelve year old girl hiding a grenade or a seventy year old man bent over in a rice paddy with an AK-47 beside him. I have been in country for almost a year. How will I ever explain to folks at home what it is like. I will not talk about it but will push the memories deep into the recesses of my mind and hope and pray they will stay there. They won’t. If only the old men in Washington would let us do what we’re trained to do. Don’t ask us to fight with rules of engagement tying one hand behind our backs. I am an American soldier and I will win if you let me.

I am a thirty year old Sergeant and traveling in a caravan of Humvees in Kirkuk Iraq in 2007. This is my 2nd tour of duty. The first was in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. My truck is moving slowly, cautiously. One second all is well and the next an IED explodes right under the vehicle in front of me. I rush to help them. In wars past all would have been killed but in this war with advanced medical care they will survive. They will go home missing arms and legs and with terrible brain injuries. They will walk on a titanium leg and embrace a child with an artificial arm. Some will never leave a wheelchair. They will never be the same. They are heroes and must be honored for all time. They fought well and paid a terrible cost. They are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They are American soldiers.

Today is the day I will die on foreign soil. It is October 22nd, 2015 and I am a Staff Sergeant with special forces. I have already won eleven Bronze stars fighting for my country. Today I will help free 70 Kurdish hostages from imminent torture and death. My government says this is not a combat mission but my wife will tell my four sons that their dad died a hero during combat in Iraq. I do not think of myself as a hero, just an American soldier doing what he is trained to do. I am the first American to die fighting ISIS Terrorists.

Through the centuries we have asked who can we send, who will serve? Our young warriors have gathered for battle. Those called are strong and will not cower. They all love peace but understand what freedom demands may cost their blood be spilt on foreign lands. Through the years across the land mothers with tear filled eyes and trembling hands, have placed a golden star in lighted windows. Windows that were meant to greet with warmth those home from battle. Those who return ask only that those who rest beneath foreign soil, at the bottom of great seas and in hundreds of small town cemeteries across the nation be remembered as America’s best. They have not fought only for flag and country but for their brothers. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” They are American soldiers.

Copyright 2014 Patricia Palmer

About the author:

Patricia Palmer lives in Gilbert, Arizona with her husband Dennis, an Air Force veteran. Her deep appreciation for our veteran began when she wanted to understand her father's experience as a Staff Sergeant in the 29th Division which land on Omaha Beach on "D" day during World War II. After almost ten years of research she wrote a book called "The Luger" which chronicled her father's life before, during and after his combat experiences. She was asked to write a work that honored our veterans for a 4th of July ceremony and has read it at several special veterans events.