Submitted by: Edward McLaughlin

Category: Poetry

I have watched the newsreels of our soldiers in combat and marveled at the new equipment that they carry: Kevlar helmets with camera mounts, protective vests and large backpacks. I thought back to my days as an infantryman, battle dress always on the ready. On top of our wall lockers, we kept our web gear with our helmet on top of it. Today’s soldier to me seems well weighted down when I compare him to the soldier of my youth, when we traveled light. It’s been a long time since I thought of the web gear we carried, but I remember that it could be put on in a matter of moments and along with the helmet, you were combat ready. As I think I remember, it had shoulder straps, connected to a pistol belt, first aid pouch on the upper left hand of the strap, two ammo pouches on each side in front of the pistol belt, bayonet on the right hip, canteen on the right rear hip. It also had what we called a fanny pack, in which we carried just a very few things, maybe a few C-rations; it hung in the rear of the pistol belt, and slung under the fanny pack was a rolled poncho.
The poncho is a great piece of equipment. It could quickly be disconnected from the fanny pack when it rained, plenty of room beneath it for you and your rifle. It had many uses, a great piece of inexpensive equipment. I am sure the soldiers of today carry something like a poncho with them.
We have all seen films of the aftermath of a battle and the gathering together of the KIA placed together, where they had taken that very soldier’s poncho and covered him with it. I’ve been preaching for some time now about my utter respect for soldiers and the sacrifices that go along with that of a soldier. It is fashionable today to say “Thank you for your service.” I am very glad of that new respect to the military, as opposed to the absolute disdain for servicemen by many during the late 1960s. I am glad to say that I have always been in fashion. I still remember many years ago when someone for the first time asked if I was in the military, and I was prepared to receive a lot of grief. His response shocked me when he responded, “Thank you.”
I have been trying to spread the word that everyone should realize the true sacrifice of the soldier and the soldier alone, for he is the only one who when he does the job that he has been trained to do, carries along with him his own shroud.

Edward G. McLaughlin

About the author:

Edward G. McLaughlin, a 1960s 2nd Infantry Division soldier, is the author of several books on the Civil War and the United Stated Colored Troops (USCT), especially related to the largest Civil War training camp for USCT (Camp William Penn) near Philadelphia and the burial location at the Philadelphia National Cemetery. "The Cemetery Monument Hidden in Plain View" (Amazon Books)