Nancy L. Meek

A HERO BY ANY OTHER NAME

When I was just a little girl…
a pigtailed, giggly, little thing
I did not know about Vietnam
or the many deaths it would bring

Nor did I know about the terror
which lay in wait for our boys
the effects of Agent Orange
and the many futures it destroys

I did not know about politics
police actions and the like
All I knew about were my dolls
and learning to ride my bike

and, too, there was Hopscotch,
Jump Rope, Blind Man’s Bluff
Kick the Can and Dodge ball
In summers never long enough

Of course there were many other things
which filled my childhood years;
but conversations about the war
were not meant for such little ears

Then along came The Dreaded Draft
so, my brother joined the Marines
a petrified, flat-footed, bed-wetter
just barely out of his teens

I did not know at the time
his reasons for being afraid.
Heck! I didn’t even know he was scared
only that his decision had been made

So off he went to Parris Island
where all he did was march and dig holes
fill them up again and dig some new ones…
at least that is what us kids were told

Then, one day he came back to home and hearth
ran away… he did, swearing never to go back
but, the MPs came with their handcuffs
carting him away to pay for his AWOL act

They put him in solitary confinement
which, by the way, he seemed to like a lot
‘cause he did not have to dig those holes
or run for miles, getting all sweaty and hot

But word was they made him run anyway
after they released him from his cell
Thus, he ran, screaming because of a hernia
until, while out running one day, he fell

Before we knew it, he was back home
with papers proving he was unfit…
not needed except in a national emergency
Dishonorably Discharged forthwith

It all seems like such a long time ago
this blight placed upon our family name…
this fear swallowing whole my brother
who never did recover from the shame

As the years passed, I learned in small bits
what the Vietnam War did to our boys…
how it took from them their innocence
making men of them, employing grown-up toys

I learned of the horrors they had seen…
the blood, the spilled guts and inhumane acts
I learned that today some still wake screaming
as their way of dealing with war’s gory facts

As a result, I can appreciate even more
our courageous boys who braved the fires of hell
fighting for the freedoms we so dearly love
coming home real men, their stories to tell

I can understand, too, the aversion to war
so many soldiers espouse all of their days
wishing we could settle our differences
in less-violent and less-maiming ways

I sympathize with my brother’s consuming fear
after hearing the price he might have to pay
after all, no one wants to die before his time
and for him, this was his chosen way

His way, however, does not keep men free
in a world where evil strains to reign supreme
There is only one solution for now, that I can see
and that is we must fight to keep alive our dream

That is why I am so very proud of the soldier
who knew what had to be done and did it
even when fear looked him dead in the eye
some losing their very own lives because of it.

I am so sorry for the way he was treated
returning home only to be spit upon by his brothers
in this beautiful land he so yearned to come home to
in this land many consider greater than all the others

How can I fully thank him for all he has done
when there are not enough words or songs to sing
to make him realize, in my book, he is Number One
that without him, our Liberty Bell would not ring?

Somewhere today, a Veteran is reading this
who fought for that once-pigged-tailed, giggly me,
bravely stepping forward when his name was called
risking his very life and limb for me to be free

Hear ye! Hear ye! “Brother next-door, I love you so!
Who, by any other name, could ever be loved so true?
Today, and every day, I just want you to know
the answer, my hero, is none other than you!”