For Our Fallen Ones

By , bluffton, SC
I cry. Only when I watch my dad leave. I cry. Only when I hear of those who have fallen. I cry. Only when I know that someone's soldier will not be coming home. I cry. When my dad comes home to me. I know that not many are blessed with my gift. I cry. When I know someone's hero has fallen and know protects the gates of heaven. That is when I cry. I grew up being told that crying was weak. That it was a waste of energy. I remember when I was told this. My dad was teaching my how to ride a bike when I was five I believe and I fell off. Like a normal five year old I balled like a big baby. My dad tried to calm me down and told me to look that it was a simple scratch. I looked, but seeing my own blood made me hysterical. So I screamed and cried. It was then that my dad looked at me with his thousand mile stare that only a man who has seen the worst could gain and told me.

"Now look here. I've seen men who have had their limbs ripped off and didn't even whimper. Stop your blubbering. Crying is for the weak. Now get back on that bike. If you quit now you'll never learn."
I was so shocked that my dad had said that I instantly stopped crying. I got up and got on my bike without a word and you know what. He was right. That very day I mastered the art of riding the bike. Til this day I don't forget that. I don't cry when a stupid boy hurts me or when I get hit. The only time I let a tear slip out from my dry eyes is when I hear of a casualty. Why? Because I cry for the soldier who is too strong to cry. I am weak for that brave soldier. I don't let anyone see it. It's silent and alone. People don't need to see it. It's none of their business. The one time I accidently let it be seen is 9/11. I was six or seven. I watched the video with curiosity. Not being able to process in my young head that our country was being attacked. I was usually at daycare until my dad got off work at 20:00. This day he came to get me earlier. I was so excited. I truly loathed that daycare. No matter how happy I was or how silly I acted to try and cheer up my dad he did crack a tiny smile. His face was stone that day. I was so confused. I thought I got in trouble at school. Finally, I mustered the courage to ask what was wrong.

"Daddy? Are you okay? Did Mrs.Hammish call you at school?"

My dad seemed to snap out of his trance and a wide smile cracked across his sand papered face.

"No baby doll. Just some serious stuff at work. Don't worry bout it k?"

"Alright Daddy. I Love you."

"I love you too."

I still worried about it though. It ran through my head all through dinner. I kept looking at my dad's permanent frown. I had never seen him so distraught in his life. He always came home with a smile. He left his work at work. Later that night I couldn't sleep because of the day's events. I didn't connect the smashing buildings with my dad yet. I got out of bed to go see my dad. Whenever I couldn't sleep he always sang me a country song until I fell asleep. This time when I wandered down the small base housing hallway I heard a distant sobbing. I walked quietly down the hall and peeked into my dad's room. He was sitting in his room facing the flag in it and he was crying. Not huge crocodile tears like I did the day of the bike incident but silent, graceful ones. I didn't know what to do. I didn't understand why my dad was crying.

"Daddy? Why are you crying? Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?"

He turned to me and whipped away his tears.

"No. Just some very bad man hurt Daddy's and yours home. It upsets daddy that's all."

"Well you want me to go hit em? My gym teacher says I have a nasty punch...whatever that means..."

"No baby. That's okay. You having trouble sleeping?"

"Oh.. yeah. But if you wanna cry I can leave Daddy."

"Thanks for the offer but I'm okay now."

So I crawled into his huge bed and curled up to my dad. That night he sang me Letters from home by John Michael Montgomery. I fell asleep quickly. Not hearing the end of the song. I always fell asleep before that soldier cried. It always made me sad and I didn't want to cry.

A couple of weeks passed and my dad came home with that same face. I was worried because I thought he wasn't sad anymore.

"Daddy did they hurt our home again?" I asked anxiously.

"No. I need you to pack your things though baby doll. You're going to stay with Mr. Scratz for the next few months."

"Daddy. I don't want to live with him. Why can't I just stay with you?"

"Where daddy is going you can't come baby. I'm sorry."

"I don't care. I wanna come."

"You can't now go on up in your room and pack your stuff. I'll drop you off at Mr. Scratz house then I have. I promise to you though angel. I'll come home soon." He kissed me on my forehead and I ran up to my room and packed my things.

I didn't have much. I was little and we did move a lot. My dad thanked Mr.Scrat for taking care of me while he was away.

"Oh anything for a fellow Marine. Plus she's a sweet heart. Semper Fi Marine. Come home safe to your angel. Come home safe to America alright?"

He shook his hand. My dad picked me up in a bone crushing hug and I heard him sniffle a bit. My shirt was wet when he got in his truck to leave. I waved good bye and shouted that I loved him and he did the same. I still didn't quite understand that my dad was being deployed for the first time. Once Mr. Scratz (A drill Instructor) informed me off what was happening and why my dad left. I just nodded and tried not to cry in front of him.

"So for how long sir?"

"For about 7 more months hun. Don't worry though I know he will come back to us."

"I do to sir. May I be excused?" Manners first.

Scratz patted me on the head and told me I could go to my temporary room. It was there I cried. Not my daddy's tears. Those big crocodile tears that where for the weak. I felt weak then. I couldn't help my dad so I saw fit that I should cry like a weakling. The months passed slowly and my dad came home. Over the years he was deployed over and over again. Each time it wore on me. Each time I lived in a different Marines house. It was fine with me. I loved Marines. They where hearty and loved to laugh but they brought me up right. My favorite Marine house though was my dad's. As I grew older I realized what I wanted to be. A marine. When I was about the age of 11 Mr. Scratz was promoted to a staff sergeant and he was killed in action. There I learned when it was okay to cry and how I was supposed to cry. I cried those tears my dad cried the night of 9/11. Those gentle understanding tears. Scratz was never married so my dad and I where his family. I was dressed in black and my dad in his blues. He stood there stone faced. I didn't understand then the strength it took for him to do that. I just didn't understand how he could do it. At first I was mad he didn't show any emotion towards his fallen comrade. I wanted to yell and scream and jump up and down at him. Then I saw it. The light silent tears he had. Those translucent tears that didn't seem like he was crying at all. These men had tears, so many tears. So many I didn't quite get. After the funeral they day went like normal and so did our lives. I hit high school and I joined JROTC. It was then my dad realized my motives to joined the Armed forces.

"I will not let you!"He screamed at me.

"It doesn't matter. As soon as I am 18 you don't have a say-so."

" The hell I don't! Young lady get down here!"

So I made my way down the stairs.

"What branch?"

I was shocked... he wanted to talk about it?

"Marine Corps."

"NO!" he yelled standing up and throwing the chair he was sitting on.

"Dad I don't understand! Why not? You never explain things to me! It started the day of 9/11. I've been lost about you since that day. Since I was 6! That's not fair! You're my dad and you're supposed to support me!"

"Exactly Elizabeth! You don't understand! I will die before you join the marines."

"Well papa get ready to keel over cause it's happening!"

He stood there silently. He went and picked up the chair he threw and put it back in place. I instantly regretted the words I had shouted. I never wanted my dad to die ever.

"I'm being deployed again." was all he said. He looked at me and that man cried a different type of tears. They looked broken. They never left his eyes. They just danced at the rim.

"What? No..." I said. I felt myself tremble but by then I had trained myself not to cry. I straightened my spine and looked at him.

"I'm proud of you dad."

He looked at me with those rim tears and whispered. "what happened to my gentle Izzy? My little angel who didn't understand 9/11? Or when I was first deployed?"

"She grew up dad and figured things out for herself. I love this country and I will do whatever it takes to protect my country."

"Alright. You're right. Listen,... You turned out just like I would want my daughter to turn out. Get some sleep it's late."

I didn't get some sleep though. I couldn't. Whenever my dad was about to be deployed I would have gruesome dreams of him killed in action just like Mr. Scratz. So I laid there wide awake and listened to my dad pack. Until I slowly drifted off to sleep.
_________

"Daddy? where'd you go?" I sang song as a little girl again.

"Daddy's gone away for awhile dearest. He will be home soon." said a man in a marine corps uniform.

"But why? He already served you people."

"Not enough. We won't let him go til he turns to nasty sand. He'll be sleepin with his M-16 for the rest of his life get over it...MARINE!"
I looked at myself. I was in my own Dress Blues. I started puking up sand and ammo and the man faded away. I tried to stop or call for help. My dad approached and pulled a string in my back and my mouth shut. He pulled another and I was saluting and officer. He opened my mouth and my voice poured out.

"Sir. Loftin reporting for duty."

"Good on ya. You're the one who's daddy died in Afghan right?"

"Yes, sir." I felt like a puppet. I couldn't control myself. My dad pulled the strings with a solemn face.
I turned to him. "Dad please stop it..." Then I screamed in horror as I saw the perfect image of my dad's body mangled in blood soaked sand. He was still breathing.

"Someone! Help! Please!" I screamed my throat raw.

"Baby, It's okay. Daddy will be gone for a while but you'll be alright. You'll learn to live. I love you." and then he died in my arms.
I awoke screaming. My dad wasn't dead and he never will be. He always comes home safe to me. Right?
He always does. I cross my fingers everyday that every young child of a soldiers has that chance. To have their mom or dad back in their arms.





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