Silver Wings

The blood trickled proudly. I could feel its pride.

I was stupid in my youth. “Young, dumb, and full of cum” is how we phrased it then, and that’s pretty accurate really.

The silver wings flashed in the bright Alabama sun, as I pulled them from my chest, my wife beaming and also a little concerned she hadn’t done it right.

Celebrations were muted in light of the somber news of that morning that began in Georgia. It was silly that I should be so proud of those wings. It wasn’t nearly as difficult to earn them as it was to earn the blue cord. Yet there was something different about those wings. There was something special about them. They were something even more special in a world of special awards.

I was thinking of Shadow. Shadow would be proud. It was sad he couldn’t make it. I wanted him to be there.

We called him Shadow because he was one. In fact, he was my Shadow. Hardcore and Shadow, never separated until of late. He should have been there next to me, bleeding. I was first in line to volunteer to leave – leave my future dreams unfinished to go somewhere I shouldn’t have to go in a better world – leave my Shadow behind and go farther than I’d ever been from home, perhaps to die. It’s ironic that it was he who would end up leaving me behind and go where I would have gone, but couldn’t. Ironic that my Uncle wouldn’t let me go. Ironic that I was forced to finish my dream, while my Shadow went to Hell without me. He came back different, I’m told.

What should have been wide grins flashing like silver on that field were half smiles and almost nods. Most of us would go, just not me. I had somewhere to be.

Shadow was born less than 48 hours after me, grew up less than 50 miles from me, yet we’d never met until we were 17. We were sitting next to each other in our underwear in a cold hospital room, chatting while passersby stopped to ask if we were twins. We got along OK, and kept each other company through this line and that examination all day in our underwear. Very liberating, that.

Neither of us thought about that much, never expected to see each other again. A month later, we were boarding the same plane, heading to the same place, to do the same thing. I got to be in charge for no better reason than I happened to look more responsible to a stranger. It was probably a good thing. Fortunately, back then when young men like us were doing what we were doing, allowances were made for clowning around with the word “bomb” in an airport. He repeated it under his breath for no better reason than he wasn’t supposed to, and because the stranger was right.

We crawled through the mud and the heat and the torrential rain together, me and my Shadow. We killed rubber people and ate together, braved the tear gas and compared blisters together. And then we went home together, never once considering that we would meet yet again just a few weeks later.

Some people are inseparable, perhaps by bonding, perhaps by fate. For years I and my Shadow were back to back, shoulder to shoulder, and for years men and women who knew us well confused us. He was after all, my Shadow – he was me and I was him. It’s just how it was. We didn’t mind, we kind of enjoyed it.

Eventually we had to separate, and I went to Georgia once again, and my wife twice pounded the silver into the flesh of my chest on the morning of August 3, 1990, and celebrations were muted, and young men and women half smiled and almost nodded, and my Shadow wasn’t there, and I didn’t go to Kuwait. He came back different, I’m told. They say he killed his wife I never met. They say he left a part of himself in Hell.

But I never saw my Shadow again. I had traded my Shadow for a pair of silver wings and a green beret. Sometimes, those wings make me proud. Sometimes those wings feel like thirty pieces of silver.

Fighting soldiers from the sky
Fearless men who jump and die
Men who mean just what they say
The brave men of the Green Beret

 

Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America’s best
One hundred men will test today
But only three win the Green Beret

 

Trained to live off nature’s land
Trained in combat, hand-to-hand
Men who fight by night and day
Courage peak from the Green Berets

 

Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America’s best
One hundred men will test today
But only three win the Green Beret

 

Back at home a young wife waits
Her Green Beret has met his fate
He has died for those oppressed
Leaving her his last request

 

Put silver wings on my son’s chest
Make him one of America’s best
He’ll be a man they’ll test one day
Have him win the Green Beret.

 

Silver Wings

::That poem is The Ballad of the Green Berets, by Robin Moore and Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler::

::That image is of the United States Army Basic Parachutist Badge::

17 Responses to “Silver Wings”

  1. anothersadsong Says:

    Daddy, I’m so proud of you.
    =]
    I love you so much.

  2. Lou FCD Says:

    Thank you.

    I love you too, Sweetie.

  3. Kym Says:

    I think hardest for me would be missing Shadow and wondering if I ever really knew him.

    (I grew up with that song. My dad had the record and we played it over and over. I still love it though as a Eng lit major I would be laughed at because it is so sentimental. Sometimes Sentiment is what is called for.)

  4. Lou FCD Says:

    I do miss him, Kym, and I wonder.

    I also wonder what would have happened to me had we not gone separate ways.

    “There, but for the grace of God, go I”? It’s an odd sentiment for an atheist, I know – but you get the idea.

  5. Kym Says:

    Hmm, If I were your wife, I’d be a bit worried;> Is it really only the grace of God keeping you from killing her?

  6. Lou FCD Says:

    Sometimes.

    (just kidding, stop hitting me with the hammer!!!)

    Actually, I didn’t meet my wife until after Shadow and I had mostly gone our separate ways, and had we not, I’d never have even met her.

    So she can take comfort in the thought that if I’d have gone down his path and killed my wife, it would have been a different wife.

    🙂

  7. Kym Says:

    Oooh some comfort!

  8. Tammy -SCS-Feathers&ink Says:

    Wow…I was searching for the image of the wings…to use for a fallen soldier. My friend’s son, SSgt. Ryan Maseth died in Iraq on Jan. 2, 2008. I am making a board for his funeral and was searching for images of his decoration. I came across your page…and I am saddened by what happened to Shadow and gratefully acknowledge that you felt the need to write about him. I am so sorry for what happened to him. I am sure he isn’t the monster they made him out to be… only wondering what went wrong when he went to a different land to serve.
    You don’t sound like an atheist to me, kind sir. You sound like a man who has been touched by the hand of God.
    And with that I ask that God bless the rest of your days.

  9. Lou FCD Says:

    Thank you for your kind sentiments, Tammy. I’m glad you found my little corner of the blogosphere.

    My condolences on SSG Maseth. The DoD press release can be found here, and I quote it in its entirety.

    The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth, 24, of Pittsburgh, Pa., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 2 of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.

    The incident is under investigation.

    For more information related to this release, the media may contact the U.S. Army Special Operations Command public affairs office at (910) 432-6005

    The 5th SFG is a proud and honorable unit. In an odd coincidence, Shadow was with the 101st Airborne at Ft. Campbell when he killed his wife.

    I’ll take the remainder of your comment in the spirit in which it was intended. Thank you.

    May you find peace and happiness in the rest of yours.

  10. Kym Says:

    When we count the cost of war, we miss out some important expenses. From terrible incidents like Shadow’s wife to small things like the sense of sadness I feel reading this that I will take with me for awhile.

  11. Lou FCD Says:

    Yes. War is Hell, and although objectives may be accomplished and goals may be achieved, there are never any winners. No matter how it is resolved, the price is high for everyone involved, even tangentially. It is not an endeavor in which to be entered lightly, though that is sometimes not the attitude of the decision makers who sit comfortably in an office many miles from the front lines.

    The pains of war cannot ever be adequately measured with body counts.

  12. Kym Says:

    Lou, I was reading Taplin’s blog this morning and thought of you and Shadow.

    http://jtaplin.wordpress.com/2008/01/12/ptsd-or-methamphetamine/

  13. Lou FCD Says:

    Thanks Kym. Sadly enlightening.

  14. khan Says:

    —I was stupid in my youth. “Young, dumb, and full of cum” is how we phrased it then, and that’s pretty accurate really.—

    Catching up on your stuff.

    Haven’t heard that phrase in more than 30 years.

  15. Rystefn Says:

    “War is Hell, and although objectives may be accomplished and goals may be achieved, there are never any winners.”

    Truer words were never spoken, my friend.

  16. Efren Balderas Says:

    I grew up in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I know all about the Green Berets and what there families go threw. My dad serviced for 20+ years and part of that was Airborne Special Forces. I have heard the Special Forces Ballard hundreds of time and still to this day remember my dad singing it to me. Always grew up wondering when the day was going to come where a soldier would put bring me and my brother a flag and oyr silver wings. That day never came. My dad made it threw all the hard times. Stronger after every. I am so proud to be his son. Thank you dad. Thank you all who serve. God Bless America!!


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