Barry M. Solomon


Their stalk began eleven long days ago;
now they’re settled in their handmade hide:
A tiny place of rocks and logs and dirt
that conceal them as they must decide.

The mission was only to last six days,
now they’re here on their own discretion.
To stay any longer hoping for their shot
would certainly border on obsession.

Eleven days of good intel had been gathered
but so far their target had not appeared.
Lesser men would have returned to base;
these two had patience to be revered.

Sweaty and unshaven, covered in dirt,
thirsty and hungry and tired,
Just two of the Scout Snipers of the USMC;
one clean shot was all they desired.

The food, well rationed, had run out three days since;
the next drink would drain the canteens.
But they still had their rifle, so here they would stay.
We expect no less from our Marines.

Watching and waiting for their target to show:
range to the crossroads – seven one zero.

They deployed from base camp just before Christmas Eve,
with no time to phone families, so dear.
There’s no time for Christmas when there’s a job to be done
in a different time zone – another hemisphere.

Certainly to endure hardships such as these,
their quarry must be of an epic scale;
yet targeting enemy generals and heads of state
is mostly the stuff of a Hollywood tale.

No, their target was much more mundane:
a black market expert with greedy connections.
He kept rebel forces well stocked and supplied
and for this he enjoyed their protections.

Intelligence said he’d be passing through this way
to negotiate a deal for RPG’s by the crate.
That should have happened five days ago;
so far no sign, and still they wait.

The Gunnery Sergeant was the spotter,
of the two, the more seasoned by far.
He was a veteran of many campaigns –
the deserving possessor of a Silver Star.

Watching and waiting for their target to show:
range to the signpost – eight five zero.

A wife and three kids awaited back home;
he had left them there many times before.
Stoic and brave, they’d shed not a tear:
it was Daddy’s job to go to war.

He had just come off the pre-dawn watch:
the sky starting to lighten by degree.
He fell fast asleep as his head hit the earth,
dreaming of presents still under a tree.

Keeping watch was a Corporal, still young and green,
yet a master of pulling a trigger.
The science of ranging, elevation and windage:
this was a vocation he pursued with vigor.

His rifle, a much-trusted M40A3,
he knew like the back of his hand.
With a thousand-yard effective range,
the.308 round was fully under his command.

Staring down at the crossroads for the one thousandth time
he stopped his morning scan to reflect
wouldn’t this be their twelfth day of Christmas;
why not let the Halls be decked?

Watching and waiting for their target to show:
range to the old tire – six three zero.

When the Sergeant awoke from his nap,
still tired, to the core of his being,
he blinked hard once, and then again:
he couldn’t be sure what he was seeing.

Standard-issue olive drab socks had become a pair
of Christmas “stockings,” quite fantastic,
plus a dozen ornaments hanging from parachute cord;
these carefully cut from MRE plastic.

“Found deep in the drag bag was our Christmas feast,”
the Corporal explained with obvious glee,
“Half a PowerBar for you, Sarge,
and two crackers for me!”

Sarge tried to be angry, but to his utter amazement,
all he could think of was his wife’s farewell embrace.
“Merry Christmas to you, Corporal,” and then with a wink,
“Make sure your ‘decorations’ find their way back to base.”

Then eating in silence, a distant din rose,
perhaps it was the sound of a Jeep.
Crawling back to positions they knew all too well,
the Scout Snipers continued their sweep.

No more watching or waiting – they never felt more alive:
range to their target – six seven five.

Ranging was second nature by now,
and the chance of any error remote.
The range card was completely memorized:
fully committed by rote.

Elevation adjusted up 21.5 MOA,
Windage at 2 MOA to the right.
The Corporal adjusted his focus and settled his breathing;
finally his target in sight.

“Spotter ready” whispered Sarge. “Shooter ready” the reply,
as the Corporal settled at the bottom of his breath.
“Send it” caused the trigger to smoothly break:
From afar, the guarantee of death.

The round raced through the air, true on its target,
arriving before the shot’s sound.
The black marketer’s life had left his body,
before he had even slumped to the ground.

No more watching or waiting – they never felt more alive:
an easy backtrack to the ravine, range – three eight five.

From the crossroads, at once, there came a hail
of machinegun fire, quite random.
Unhurriedly, they crawled away,
spotter and sniper in tandem.

With no muzzle flash or a follow-up shot
to give away their position,
they dropped silently into the ravine,
heading back to camp to end their mission.

Back in the barracks, no one stopped to notice
that Sarge was carefully packing a box.
It was addressed to his wife and kids back home;
filled with scraps of plastic and a pair of old socks.

So on the twelfth day of Christmas,
you might stop and give thanks
to those who can do more with one bullet
than a column of tanks.

Author’s Note: Inspired by my good friend Michael Marks’ poetry, which he writes for neither fame nor fortune, but because his sentiment is true.