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A Soldier's Story

We are a country at war sending out a volunteer army of mostly young men and women. This post is dedicated to our fighting forces and to all the returning soldiers, may they live with ease. If they are able to speak when they return, they have stories. I have tried to gather a few of them, and it has not been easy. I abandoned a book proposal a year ago, though I may return to it. A soldier’s story surfaces in dreams or it is held in silence, too awful to be told. I am on the look-out for soldiers and their loved ones every day. I want to talk to them, thank them, and console them. On Friday, I encountered one such story as I was checking out at Trader Joe’s. The young man scanning my groceries was a soldier and I cannot even say he is a former soldier because he may be deployed again. He has already been in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. He scanned my groceries, lining them up neatly, packing them carefully, thoughtfully. He had tattoos all over his arms and what I could see of his chest above the line of his tee-shirt and onto his hands and slender fingers. The tattoos were hard to decipher against his brown sugar skin so I asked them what they were about, what they meant, and every one of them was a story about men and women he loved. And the tattoos I couldn’t see were about peace and love with a dove of peace on his left chest below his heart. “Love conquers all,” he said. “I don’t want to fight again.”

“What will you do if you are re-deployed?”

“I will go again and fight in a senseless war. All the soldiers know what’s on the ground if only our commanders and politicians asked us. But they don’t.”

The line was forming behind me, people waiting to be served. I could have stayed talking to this young, polite, earnest man all day. It was touching the way he spoke to me and asked how I would like my groceries packed, and then packed them carefully so that the eggs would not crack and neither bag would be too heavy.

I wanted to hear more about his tattoos and I wanted our politicians to hear his stories.

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