The Forgotten Warrior

The Forgotten Warrior

He is a warrior without purpose, lost in society’s jungle of despair, hopelessly stumbling from one day to the next. Each new day starts as did yesterdays, no longer hearing the noise of the cars and eighteen wheelers rumbling above him on the freeway. He makes his way over to the outskirts of the business hub, careful not to get too close to the businesses so as to avoid their owner’s disparaging, humiliating remarks.

An elderly man approaches,
“Excuse me sir, can you spare some change?”
The man reaches into his pocket pulls out several quarters and some small change.
“Thank you kind sir, may God bless.”

The elbows on his shirt are worn thin but the rest of the shirt is in fairly good shape. His well-worn fraying army jacket is draped across the plastic bag that contains all his worldly possessions. His leather belt has long ago lost its smooth luster and is now but a thin strip of leather pulled tight and tied in a knot around his bony hips. He pulls it tight to help suppress the hunger pains twisting into knots his withered shrunken stomach. His sunken blood-shot eyes seem to look past you, seeing things that only his jumbled memory can conjure up. The visions, real or imagined are real to him. It was his hands that held the rifle, his finger that pulled the trigger, his duty, his orders, another human life taken! Unforgettable, his action, now the burden carried on his shoulders! The pain, death, destruction witnessed so many times and now thrown back into a world unrecognizable through his eyes, just another lost soul seeking the means to exist for one more day, but not understanding why.

A lady approaches;
“Good morning pretty lady. Can you spare some change?”
She reaches into her purse and hands him two dollars.
“Thank you and May God bless you sweet lady.”

He walks into a backstreet coffee shop, sits down and orders a cup of hot water. The coffee shop does not charge for water. The waitress ignores the rules against vagrants and brings him a cup of water. Slowly he squeezes in a generous amount of ketchup, adds a little salt and pepper and stirs the concoction with the spoon the waitress had left for him. After finishing his “tomato soup” he stands to leave, reaches into his pocket, searches, pulls out a dime that he leaves for a tip. He doesn’t see the tears in the waitress’s eyes as she holds the coin in the palm of her hand, watching as he ventures back into his lost, troubled world.
Another man is walking by;
“Excuse me sir. Can you spare some change?”
“Why don’t you go find a job you sorry ass bum! I work for my money! Why don’t you try doing the same?” The man replied.
“Thank you kind sir. May God bless you.”

The stitching on his old army boots is separating, allowing small pebbles and dirt to get in, causing pain and discomfort. Socks have holes in them contributing even more to the pain. He sits on a park bench and takes off his boot and shakes out the pebbles and dirt. Two young boys point their fingers and laugh at the holes in his socks.
A young man approaches him, looks at the army boots and the tattered old army jacket. He seems lost for words.

“Pardon me sir. Could you spare some change?”
“Were you in the military? The young man asked.
“Yes sir! US Army, stationed in Iraq sir!” was the reply.
The young man was sporting a military style haircut, reaches into his pocket and hands the man a ten dollar bill.
Tears fill his eyes as he takes the money.

“Thank you kind sir.” He said in a quivering voice.
“May God always bless you and keep you safe.”
The young man snaps to attention and gives a smart salute.
“And may God bless you as well sir!”

He sits for a moment, reaches down and picks up a small pebble. His mind drifts, a spark flickers, a flash of memory. The pebble is similar in appearance to those found along the Tigris River outside Bagdad. The fog settles back in as his attention becomes fixed on a father pushing his little girl in a swing in the adjoining park play-ground. There is something emotionally troubling to him about this scene. He doesn’t understand why!

Sadly he walks away, searching in his foggy memory file trying to find answers. The memories are fleeting, his little girl, a moment of remembrance, many years past, her name was…., memory blurred by the damage caused by the IED somewhere in another life, another world.

Time lost, days have turned into months, months into years. Time is irrelevant. Is he really here or is he just a wayward thought drifting among the elements, feeling nothing, sad eyes seeing even less, just another discarded spirit trapped in the present.

“Hi friend, can you spare some change? Thank you kind sir,
may God bless.”

The day ends as the previous ones had, lost ambition, no direction, little hope, not sure what to hope for.
As the shadows fall it’s time to seek shelter for the night. Just another routine walk to the overpass. A police cruiser pulls up beside him.
“Hey mister, are you hungry? Here’s a burger, fries and a drink
courtesy of your local police.”
“Thank you, kind sir! God blesses people like you!”
“No problem. I hope you enjoy.” The officer replied.

He stops and sits by the road and eats his food. Afterwards he continues his trek to the overpass, claims a spot to sleep for the night. The air is cold, bitterly cold, difficult to breath, so cold, so alone!

Lost and abandoned no longer! The bugles blare, announcing the arrival of another of God’s children.
Another warrior has returned home wrapped in Gods warm embrace and made whole again as promised.
Standing tall he gives a snappy salute,
“Reporting as ordered sir!”

“Welcome home my son. YOU WERE NEVER FORGOTTEN!”

Walter Reynolds

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