Carry Me Home (A Reading From the Old Guard to the New)

 

Carry Me Home

(A Reading to the ‘Old Guard’ from the ‘New’)

* Originally written for, and inspired by, the men of the (Vietnam) Veterans Arts Council.

** Read at the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” Committee Fundraiser

 

Gentlemen,

   –though kneel I should—

I sit before you this day

Soul split into two

And with so much to say

 

Inside I ring like a bell!

As the pride, it does swell!

Is honored and proud

   –my heart beating loud!—

To sit before men

    –these Chiefs, my kin!—

Who’ve been before me through hell.

 

This half is the soldier

   –steadfast, head held tall—

Who never gave in..

Nor “fell out” to “sick call!”

 

 

 

This part is the one

Who’ll “sleep when I’m dead”

The one who stands watch

While the rest dream in bed.

 

The OTHER, you see—

   –this whole different me—

These days the face in the mirror

Not who I used to be.

 

Even my friends—

   The ones who’ve long been—

Have gotten the clue

(And told others the news):

“Stick round him, man,

You’ll SURE get the blues.”

 

So I sit here today

Humble, broken—it’s true.

For though I did not

I’ve “walked in your shoes.”*

 

 

(*That is, I know what the sweat

     –like the RAIN!—it can do,

To the base of the body,

Which to save you must use!

But tired and aflame,

   –once blisters ensue–

I know how it feels in them

 cheap combat boots! )

 

But, men, I came here not

To prove nothin’ to you.

It’s just now that I’m “home,”

I hope you can be, too.

 

No, we weren’t even born

Back when none “welcomed home” you,

But we know and we feel it

Alas ours is most true.

 

And as we are men

Who are so much like you,

We say what we mean,

And would never leave without you.

It’s the ethos of war

Jungle, desert, or monsoon.

And there are so many more

Who, as once did you,

Like me feel so “heavy”

As I beg unto you

To hear these last words,

If it’s the last thing you do:

That, as you’ve needed us,

So shall we need you too.

 

 

           IN MEMORIAM

[Dedicated especially to all those—

     collectively—who we’ve “left behind,”

whether “over there” or, having lived,

      still never “returned.”]

Bunkerin’ Blues

BUNKERIN’ BLUES— For CAPT (Ret.) George M.

“Brother, where’ve you been, say?”

“Bunkerin’ in”—

I admit (err, confess)

As though it’s a sin.

Yes, it is winter

Cold wind’s howlin’ outside

But you know that even come Spring

(Summer too, I’ll still hide.)

It isn’t mere fear,

Nor lack of all care.

It’s rather the fact

That sometimes we’re not there.

See, we’ve given our “all”

Most all of the time.

So to go out with our guard down–

Might as well be a crime.

But lest the world sees

That hope’s fled from our soul.

We’ll leave it to our brothers,

To lift us out of this hole*.

   (*With “Special Thanks” to R. Johnsey, once again, for lifting me out of mine.)

We Tend Toward The Shadows (But We Long To See The Light)

We tend towards the shadows

But once we knew the light

We’ve stared into the gallows

While angels hushed “It’ll be alright”

We tend towards the shadows

Because we live in FEAR of light

For when you walk the shadows

The darkness protects from the enemy’s sights

We tend towards the shadows

Because there’d we know we’ll make it through one more night

We tend toward precious shadows

For there we know we’re safe to rest- and to look into the light

We tend towards the shadows

Awake through all of every night

We tend towards the shadows

Because we’ve seen– a time or two,

                              err, many more—

           the spark go out on LIFE.

We tend towards the shadows

Because we bear eternal fright

We tend towards the shadows

Because we’ve given with all our might

We’ve tended towards the shadows

But we long to be seen in the LIGHT.

 

—M.C.M., February 6, 2011; Vicinity 2227 hrs. “Moon in Scorpio” (or not)

****WRITTEN FOR, AND INSPIRED BY MICHAEL HAWLEY, MY WARRIOR-SOUL-BROTHER

21st Century ‘Band of Brothers’

 

     Following a usually fitful night of sleep (especially given some added remorse over the Patriots’ loss in Superbowl XLVI) I woke up to the phone ringing. I let it ring.. but then- as I began to wake- I went downstairs on second-thought and checked the caller ID. It was Ma.  But- what? Ma’s home?!  Called back… “I’m in the hospital– with your brother.” “Oh, God– what happened?” (It wasn’t serious, or what I fear hearing above all things.)

         Afterwords, I watched– for the millionth time– the video I took of me & Tali (my 11-month old daughter) and sobbed my eyes out. (I hadn’t seen her in two weeks, which felt like forever, and even the priceless time we spent felt numbered from the start. But alas, I digress…

       Today, February 6th, is the day I will go to the PolyTrauma center at the West Haven VA to have my brain examined for the first time since it was smashed inside my skull just over 7 years ago in a violent, point-blank suicide car bombing that left me wounded but “Walking & Talking.” After seven years, those of us who know me best (to include myself) aren’t sure how to segregate between problems caused by PTSD, and those caused by mTBI. As such, TODAY IS A BIG DAY. (And after the phone call and subsequent sob-fest, all I wanted to do was lay back down and sleep the day away.)

       Soon, though, the sun was up, and— with 200mg of Sertraline and 20mg of Adderall now traversing my bloodstream  as with every morning “as directed”— it was out for a smoke, followed by a stop by the “Inbox,” which only led to another sob-fest, but (as with the rest) it was a mixture of pain and hopeful optimism in spite of so much LOSS. And what I read went precisely as follows:  

        “Hi Matt, Please call me Bob, The ‘Welcome Home” is the most heartfelt Brother to Brother embrace a Vietnam Vet can offer another Vet. It took us twenty years to hear it from the American public. We made sure it would never happened again to our warriors, which is why our newest warriors are honored when they come home.  I guess you had to live through that vilification and rejection to fully get that one. Be patient with us VN vets when we say it, its our way of honoring you and your brother and sister Veterans. I just moved to Florida last Oct. after living in CT all my life. Hopefully I can visit with you all when I visit CT in the summers.  I was a regular at the VA West Haven for 18 years. I’m 45 years down range from combat now, and it has been a learning experience. Navigating the readjustment issues of coming home is like visiting a strange country by yourself, you can’t speak the language, and have have no maps. Finding a tour guide makes all the difference, so learn as fast and as much as you can from those who have gone through it. It’s like new guys counted on you when they arrived in country, we learn from others, as always.”   

         Well, folks, all I can say after that is, Thank God for Bob Johnsey, who–overnight– went from complete stranger to BROTHER with his own willingness to reach out to the “new generation” of wounded souls.  But if you can’t understand why this man’s words reduced me to a child-like outpouring of the soul,  you’ll never understand the PAIN and WEIGHT that is carried–and SHARED— by the “brotherhood” that no Hollywood special, no matter HOW moving, could ever capture such as it is felt in the hearts of SOLDIERS like me.. and, for that matter, Mr. Bob Johnsey.

—-M.C.M., February 6, 2012

Greetings from VAF’s newest member…

          Greetings from … V.A.F.’s new OUTREACH COORDINATOR, GRANTS WRITER, and ARTIST-in-RESIDENCE. Having served in Iraq in 04-05, and spent the past seven years trying to COPE with it, I was honored to recently meet Mike Hawley and start up a dialog about how to reach MORE veterans with the ARTS. If YOU or ANYONE you know is a veteran (and.or FAMILY MEMBERS) and would like to find out what we are and what we do.. please don’t hesitate to contact us!

I look forward to working with you all and sharing in the HEALING— which, if you know, you know— doesn’t happen overnight, or without SUPPORT.

-Matt McDonald
mylongroadhome@hotmail.com

VAF’s been busy

The Veterans Art Foundation’s been busy during the last week and a half.  Some of the soldiers involved have been donating art, shooting Public Service Announcements, and appearing in documentaries.

The PSA was shot with the co-founder (it’s hard tying everyone’s schedules together), which means the acting will be horrible.  The PSA’s titled “the Conversation” about a vet and a family member of a returning combat veteran worrried about his brother’s behavior.  When it’s finished I’ll post it everywhere.

Morgan Cooley, a talented artist out of NYC has donated  two paintings to the Hell to Here short film project.

http://www.indiegogo.com/HelltoHere?c=home

Mike Zacchea and the co-founder appeared in a documentary that highlights the humanity of our soldiers returning from combat for audiences overseas. The filmmaker was Muslim, citizen of the United States.  The piece isn’t propaganda, but an exercise in bridging the gap.  PTSD spans all cultures.

I’ll put up the link when it becomes available.  Thanks so much for reading.