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Bittersweet Reunion
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
C-130 rollin down the strip
Airborne Daddy gonna take a little trip
Mission top secret
Destination unknown
He don't know if he's ever coming home…

An old Army buddy emailed me
out of the blue a few weeks ago.

Found me on the Internet
amongst too many "friends" I barely know
and wouldn't take a bullet for.

Fills me in
on the guys we used to run with,
— some in, some out,
some completely off the grid,
— some names I recall,
and some don't ring a bell at all.

He puts me in touch with one,
— also out, married with kids—
and I'm surprised to hear
that everyone else is alive
and more or less well.

I have this whitewashed flashback
and miss it all.

We were old enough
to have enlisted with clear eyes;
young enough to believe
we were invincible.

Wars were no longer fought
by soldiers, but by technology
striking from the sky,
opportunists spilling blood
without raising too much of a fuss.

More practical than patriotic
we terrorized the bars and women
of Clarksville and Nashville, TN
— an occupying force training in their backyards
to fight a war we were all sure
would never come.

Before 2/26, 9/11 and "Mission Accomplished".
Before John DiGiovanni, Bob Kirkpatrick, Steven Knapp,
Bill Macko, Wilfred Mercado and Monica Rodriguez Smith.
Before 6,000-plus dead and 10 times as many wounded,
— most nameless, before and after.

Before Giuliani was America's Mayor
Before Clinton was America's Big Sister
Before McCain was America’s Crazy Uncle
Before Obama was America's New Black Friend.

Before one weekend a month, two weeks a year
became “he don’t know if he’s ever coming home”.

Before it all seemed so
hopeless, so
inevitable.

My friend, Scott, emailed me
out of the blue a few weeks ago
telling me about an upcoming reunion
of the guys we used to run with,
still alive, despite our best efforts.

Fifteen years later
we've settled down,
married with children,
our Crazy Horse, Mad Dog
and Newport-fueled days of
drinking and driving
smoking and surviving
fucking and fighting
more or less behind us.

That night,
I avoid the news
for fear of recognizing a name
in the nightly death toll of
sons, daughters, husbands, wives,
— each one a friend of a friend
who will never drink, smoke,
fuck or fight again.

Stand up, buckle up, shuffle to the door
Jump right out and count to four.
If I die in a combat zone
Box me up and ship me home.
Pin my wings upon my chest
And bury me in the leaning rest.