Spoken From the Hedgerows
To bring back a time and place.
A feeling. As in “we are all in this
together.” Or “the United States and her allies
fought for Freedom.” To bring back.
The experience of killing and getting killed.
Get missed. Get hit. Sun—is it with us. Holiday,
are you with us on this beach today.
Hemisphere of one, my soul, paratrooper,
greatness I house in my body, deepset, my
hands on these triggers—who once could outrun
his brother—consumed with fellow-feeling like a madness that does not
lower its pitch—going to the meeting place,
the spire of the church in Vierville, seen on aerial maps, visible from
eighteen miles out,
if it weren’t for fog, and smoke, and groundmist,
the meeting place, the appointed time surging in me,
needing to be pierced—but not me—not me—
only those to the left and right of me—
permit me to let you see me—
Me. Driven half mad but still in biography.
By the shared misery of. Hatred. Training. Trust. Fear.
Listening to the chatter each night of those who survived the day.
There is no other human relationship like it.
At its heart comradeship is an ecstasy.
You will die for an other. You will not consider it a personal
loss. Private Kurt Gabel, 513 Parachute Infantry Regiment—
“The three of us Jake, Joe and I became an entity.
An entity—never to be relinquished, never to be
repeated. An entity is where a man literally insists
on going hungry for another. A man insists on dying for
an other. Protect. Bail out. No regard to
consequence. A mystical concoction.” A last piece
of bread. And gladly. You must understand what is meant by
gladly. All armies throughout history have tried
to create this bond among their men. Few succeeded as well
as the paratroop infantry of the U.S. Army,
Rifle Company E, 506th.
Fussell: It can’t happen to me. It can happen to me. It is
going to happen to me. Nothing
is going to prevent it.
Webster (to his parents): I am living on borrowed time—
I do not think I shall live through the next jump.
If I don’t come back, try not to take it too hard.
I wish I could persuade you to regard death
as casually as we do over here. In the heat of it
you expect it, you are expecting it, you are not surprised
by anything anymore, not surprised when your friend
is machine-gunned in the face. It’s not like your life, at home,
where death is so unexpected. (And to mother):
would you prefer for someone else’s son to die in the mud?
And there is no way out short of the end of war or the loss
of limb. Any other wound is patched up and you’re sent back
to the front. This wound which almost killed him
healed up as well and he went back.
He never volunteered. One cannot volunteer.
If death comes, friend, let it come quick.
And don’t play the hero, there is no past or future. Don’t play
the hero. Ok. Let’s go. Move out. Say goodbye.