The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

11/11 |

November 11, 2009

Name: Alex Horton
Posting date: 11/11/09
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Frisco, Texas
Milblog: Army of Dude

Today my literature class continues our unit discussion of poetry. The instructor asked us to bring in our favorite poems and read them aloud. I try to sequester the words 'vet,' 'Iraq,' and 'war' from my vocabulary when I'm rubbing elbows with teenagers and twentysomethings, but I might need to break the habit so they can understand my eyes misting up when reading this:

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

    In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

Stop by the New York Times to read about the price of coming home a marked man. I find a bit of solace knowing that warriors have felt the same way going back a few thousand years.

I've been hosting an Army buddy of mine the past few days, and for the first time in a long time, I've been my true self, not the quiet student I've pretended to be. My true self only peeks out from behind the mask when another veteran is there to speak the language and listen to the stories with a knowing smile and a simple nod. They don't change the subject or shy away or languish under the pressure of uttering the I-word or the A-word. They don't secretly wonder when your next outburst or flashback is going to come out. They get it, but the problem is, there are too few around that get it. So each Veteran's Day, the mask stays on until I come across another wearing the same disguise.

In between tweets and twats, Facebook status updates and snores, I'm going to read "In Flanders Fields," not for me or the instructor or the other students, but for my father, grandfathers and uncle that served honorably so many years ago. I'll read it for my brothers still in the fight, and those who continue the battle long after the guns have fallen silent.


Stand firm for your beliefs. The world could use all the strong in mind and body it can muster.
i too find "in flanders fields" an echo of what we are asked to do. Believe that your concerns are held by many many others. ty Pattc

Amazing what one learns about cover and concealment, and entrapment and kill zones. The poetry for all those buried in trenches has always worked for me. Thanks.

I am a visiting professor at Pierce (Military) College at Ft. Lewis, Wa. and am Canadian. We were brought up to memorise In Flander's Field as children in the 1950's. The devastation of WW! still haunts Canada. Armistice day is a BIG DEAL where I come from. So, in a local coffee house in Tacoma which has an open mike night, while the student population was singing and chatting (while Canadian and US men were dying in Afghanistan) at 11:00 on the Eleventh day of the Eleventh month, I read the poem.

The WWI poets are as immediate today as they were almost one hundred years ago.
Wilfred Owen is my favorite.
After reading those guys I found about poets from other wars. Now there are poets from this one.

Actually most of those young students do want to here you tell your stories. Most of them just don't know how to ask. They also for the most part don't know that you want to talk about Iraq or Afghanistan.

There's a movie called "Voices in War Time" you might want to check out. In part it deals with the difficulty of conversation between civilians and vets.

How can I forward these postings?Thank you Jack

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