In 2012, I had a family member who had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan and I was seeing a lot of people being released medically from the military. Over that Xmas, my son and I had long conversations about the military and why it was that people were so upset. I put all of the things that I had heard and felt from serving and ex-military down on paper; the result was this poem. When I think about it, the poem really was the reason why I wrote 'Going Crazy in the Green Machine'. I hope it helps makes sense to those who serve and supports my strong belief that there is a way to reclaim one's Honour and Dignity.
Flashes in a mirror, a glimpse of empty holes,
Pained reflection confirms a wounded soul.
Hidden in the shadows, the boy that once was me,
Made into a soldier, traded him for free.
Crowns on their sleeves my fathers’ wore,
Hardened me to stone then chiseled at my core.
A man in their eyes I longed to be,
Suck it up son, be just like me.
The battle now over, my duty is done,
No longer to be the worthy son.
Battered and broken, in spirit and bone,
I look for my fathers but I stand here alone.
Forsaken, forgotten, despite my best,
Our sacred oath, it failed the test.
Ghosts now fill my every day,
My brethren gone, I fear they’ll stay.
Things seen and done, they fill my head,
Can’t risk to tell of my constant dread.
Brothers where are you, to you I implore,
My cry from hell, come open this door.
Injured they say, disease in my brain,
Probed and questioned, my illness proclaimed.
No cure or redemption will come my way,
From well-spoken strangers, it’s here to stay.
Broken or crazy, it’s all the same,
Pills and prattle, nothing but shame.
Angry and frozen, I utter no sound,
Kept close to my heart, my darkness profound.
Who stands beside me, what is my debt,
To reclaim my honour, I seek it yet.
Who will help regain my right,
To stand as a man, strong for the fight.
My brothers who have crossed this gap,
Have told the true story, dignity intact.
Backing each other as soldiers do,
They share their loads, their lives renewed.
Their duty now to find,
Dreams of young men they left behind.
Together, they take a second chance,
Life with honour, a different stance.
John J. Whelan
John J. Whelan, Ph.D., is the author of Going Crazy in the Green Machine, available now on FriesenPress.