• Karissa Chmil

You Don't Know What It's Like

You don’t know what it is like to crouch in icy mud with bullets whistling over your head as the cries of the dying stain the sky.


You don’t know what it’s like to pull the trigger and realize you are ending a story you never knew the name of.


You don’t know what it’s like to hold that flag pole as tightly as you can and run—run and run and run until you can’t run anymore, aware that every enemy eye is on you but holding your banner nonetheless.


You don’t know what it’s like to shovel dirt into the grave of your friend, to kneel in the mud and whisper over and over and over, “It should have been me.”


You don’t know what it’s like to walk an empty battlefield and see the last expressions of the dead.


You don’t know what it’s like to hear the screech of the bomb and know you’re too close, that it’s too late.


You don’t know what it’s like to see your comrade, for one moment, not as the hardened soldier with dirt on his face, dried blood on his shoulder, and a gun in his hands, but as the child you grew up with who never gave up.


You don’t know what it’s like to fight back the instinct to survive every moment of every day because there are other survivals at stake here.


You don’t know what it’s like to watch the billows of cloud roll up from the ground and to realize that your mission was successful, and that the children are dead.


You don’t know what it’s like to whisper “Oh, God. . . oh, God. . .” again and again because you can’t think of a better way to pray.


You don’t know what it’s like to sit around a fire singing and drinking and telling tales of home, to bid each other goodnight never knowing if you’ll see them alive again.


You don’t know what it’s like.


And all I can say,


my son,


is that I’m glad


you don’t know


what it’s like


because it means


that we did


our job


well.


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