The Forgotten Veterans
Too often we see strangers in a fatigue jacket on the side of the road begging and it is very easy to pass them off as a scam artist or bum.Could be!But news reports tell us that many veterans are found living under overpasses and cardboard box villages to just simply ignore. I wanted to say something about our (my) own negligence in this matter. I am a veteran.That could have been me on that corner.
Driving home one day after hours of monotonous hustle,I Saw a man sitting by the road; looked as one down on his luck.
Paid small notice to the figure – my lonely life was in a rut.
He was just another beggar holding out a shiny tin cup.
But something was rather uncharacteristic about this scene.
His old camouflaged fatigues were those of Men in uniform; Defence Forces.
No legs dangled from his wheelchair, but he sat tall, proud, and upright.
Many ribbons bore evidence of Kenyan finest knight.
Walked up to the stranger – what was left of a man sitting there.
No others near, just us two, and the pall of pathos in the air.
His hair unkempt, a shaggy beard, he stared as each car would stop,
Lest he miss a coin or, pray, a bill into his cup one might drop.
In horror saw that the cup was held by an artificial hand.
An ear had been severed; thumb on other hand, one eye was blind.
He acknowledged my presence, tipped his military cap.
As he did, I observed scars occupied most of his scape.
Asked how life brought him to this intersection on life’s highway.
From boot camp was deployed to “play in the sand” in land over there.
“Sir,” he said, “From high school my great desire was to serve my country.
Fighting with my buddies one night, my jeep hit unseen IED.”
“In flames and smoke I fought to breathe; felt that my life was slipping on.
Could barely hear, could scarcely see, and knew that my right arm was gone.
My head was bleeding profusely; could not feel my legs or left hand.
I begged God to let me die on the lands of Somalia.”
“The corpsman came with tears rolling down his face and with choking voice,
Said soldier, it’s your legs, I have to amputate, I have no choice.
There are other injuries, got to rush; choppers are on our right,
You hang in there; I salute you, brave Kenyan knight.”
The more he spoke, the colder the chills that ran up and down my spine.
Thoughtlessness and selfishness exposed a depravity of mind.
Self-pity, self-indulgence, resignation had poisoned my soul.
Changed by man with no legs, he stands ten feet tall on my honor roll.
Perhaps next time a soldier we meet at the mall or on the street,
Honor and salute those who served, even died, that we may live free.
Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy or Marine, guards of freedom’s light.
Grateful for those who wore the uniform, brave Kenyan knights.