July 30, 2009

soldiering comes with a cost

non compos mentis
by Matt Freire

so i got some bad news he said
and out his mouth the horrible news was spread
confused i was
let this be a joke i mentally choked because i knew
no one jokes in this manner
and after the news spewed from the mouth of the carrier
reality silence suffocated the area
the room quiet
thoughts whirling
on my watch the second hand quivering in spot
we three just looked at each other with bewildered expressions
no words mentioned until one uttered
“at least he is not dead”

befitting this afghan night rains like it does
and i don't know what to say or to do so i go for a run
and i run so the rain can act like my tears
because they won’t flow otherwise
because that won’t honor my friend
appendage destroyed he can walk no more
and like a sick joke i run to mourn
so my feet talk for my lack of empathy
talks me around this FOB
as skies express my want
lightning guides my way
around the HESCOS and concertina wire
my mind is blank
thinking about thinking
running for stability
haze in my mind aches
but i won’t let it asphyxiate my occupation
because my line of work
my craft
my vocation
is upheld in the most crazy of situations
you have to be unhinged to run into battle
with a weapon that cannot immediately terminate your adversaries
who assail us with armor piercing rounds
and bury surprise explosions

yet cemented my notion
and i am concrete in my emotion
i am harden in my profession
because i love the thought of capturing the now
i love my job because it’s hard
and exciting
and i think of these thoughts and wonder
how i can think of this in a time like this
how can i be happy in what i do
when my friend’s leg is missing
how i can i let this not bother me
it's just something i do
it actually doesn't scare me at all
I'm actually more resilient in my resolve
i actually want to be outside the wire on a mission right now
when you’re out there everything else disappears and you just act
and that’s exciting

i miss him i do
and wish him and his family the best
i wish i could see him and reminisce about old times
wish i could be with him and hear his unique seedy laugh
but wishes are complicated
and i know it will be till I'm home that i see him
and i know there’s nothing i can do
except keep doing what i do
keep capturing and stepping
keep cognizant with a continual movement towards whatever end state
this is, and no time is, time to retreat
besides there’s no escape in my mind
it’s not even a question
more like a hypothetical contemplation

realist i am
reality is unreliable
humanist i am
humans are unpredictable
soldier i am
soldiering comes with a cost
living i am
life could at anytime be lost

not even here an entire month
bedeviled i shan't be
even though afghan 10 doesn't sound as cool
afghan 11 in my mouth will stay
and in my mind’s present he will stay

“at least he's not dead”
my feet wouldn't be able to speak all the words
“at least he's not dead”
i fear silence would never leave the room
“at least he's not dead”
my fingers would contort from carpel tunnel
“at least he's not dead”
because the afghan 10 would have to document his funeral

Top: "The Afghan Eleven" en route to their respective assignments in Afghanistan, June 2009. The Afghan 11 are tight group of soldiers from the 55th, "Combat Camera," Fort Meade, Maryland.

From left to right: Chrisopher Alison, Jenifer Cohen, Andrew Smith, Teddy Wade, Leonardo Torres ('papa oso'), Richard Jones, Christopher Nicholas, Matthew Freire, Evan Marcy. Not in photo because they were already in Afghan getting things ready for us: Lt. Rock Stevens and Wayne Gray.

Next: Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Focus Targeting Force (FTF), search for a missing Soldier in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan on 19 Jul. 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Freire / RELEASED)


  1. My Dear Son

    Marcy... I am sorry. So sorry.

    You are a complete friend. Marcy and his family are in our hearts and minds, thoughts and prayers.

    So are you.

    Chin up. Chest out. Mind awake.



  2. AnonymousJuly 31, 2009

    hey bro that must be so hard, take care and we all back home support you and the others, love ya take care. your brother

  3. AnonymousJuly 31, 2009

    that was very moving...i'm so sorry that this has happened. if you ever need anything, please let me know. maddie has been asking about him and she wants to see him. we are here for him and you all as well.

  4. Ken DanielAugust 01, 2009

    I am sorry for your friend.

    It is interesting, though, that in your previous post, i don't want to limp away from this one, you were saying if you get a severe injury you would rather die?

    Your friend didn't die. at least he didn't die was your refrain, right?

    Interesting the timing of these two posts. How do you feel now, what is your thinking now, on "i don't want to limp away from this one"?

    You are very candid and sounds like you write when experiences are fresh, so logically you may need to make allowance for some changes in your perspectives.

  5. this is beautiful matt, I miss y'all so much and I am worried. I want to tell everyone it'll be okay and go out and dry hump and play pool and chill in dirty dive bars all night long with you- those times are not lost. COME HOME SOON!!!


  6. in the piece salvo, I don’t want to limp away from this one, in the last section I hade two meanings to it but the main one wasn’t talking about actual physical injury to myself. I was talking about how I don’t want to leave this deployment without seeing any action. I don’t want to leave here not knowing what its like, what I’m like in battle. I don’t want to leave here and not experience all there is out here. And when the fighting starts I want to feel the feelings of wanting to hide and I hope that I’m the type to stay and fight. The second meaning is yes if I get hit I don’t want to go back in the hospital. I spent two months in a German hospital because I ruptured my kidney and I cannot stand being in hospitals.
    And my feeling now, are the same even though my friend lost his leg. My perspectives I always allow room for change because I know life has a way of teaching and I am always ready to be its student.


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