I was just twenty-one when I went off to war,
The memory still fresh of an oath that I swore,
To do for my country whatever they may ask,
And never to question the reasons for the task.
To foreign soil they sent me to defend the right,
Of a people to live without fear, without fright.
Living where their ancestors had toiled for ages before,
Not to be torn apart by that man-made monster called War.
Of the country I knew little, only what the TV had shown,
And the lectures I was given by those who would make me a clone.
Twelve short months to serve, it seemed like no time at all,
Then return to those I loved, having obeyed my country's call.
There was no way to tell, no way to foresee,
The many changes that year would make in me.
I tried to fit in, to be just one of the blokes,
To share with them the workload, and sometimes the jokes.
But I became to most an enigma, the odd one out,
Because I wanted to know what it was all about.
Just who were these people we had come to defend,
Who were the enemy, and who could you call friend?
I tried to mix with the locals whenever I could,
Despite others saying it would do me no good.
They were ignorant peasants, so different from us,
Mostly illiterate and backward, so why all the fuss?
But as the year went by I began more to understand,
That we were the strange ones who had come to their land.
Whether they be orphans, nuns, farmers, or soldiers like us,
If you treated them as equals they gave you their trust.
My tour of duty over, it was time to return home,
But boarding that plane I felt I was not alone.
Although to those people I had said my farewells,
I still feel that within me part of them dwells.
Where are they now, when there is no more war,
Have they survived, or are they no more?
I will never know the answer, never again see even one,
But I will remember them all, until my own life is done!
Copyright - John Casey 18 January 1995