With his close-cropped hair, shaved chin, clear skin, regal bearing and college degree,
Showed up that Thanksgiving evening to serve slices of turkey in the DFAC.
“Dark or white meat?” he asked to every soldier who passed through the chow hall line.
It was tradition, whether stateside or out in the suck.
The high-ranking officers served the grunts on holidays.
It was “servant leadership,” some jargon-y bs.
They ladled creamed corn and mashed potatoes.
The spit-and-polish West Point products however
Never had to burn shit in sawed-off burn barrels,
Never had to pull guard duty until their eyelids sagged,
Never stared down the barrel of a rifle on overwatch at 3 a.m.,
Never tried to press a tourniquet on the gaping, pulsing wound of a dying friend,
Never dragged the blood-flecked corpse of a guy they pounded 12 beers with
Back stateside in the barracks
Onto the bed of a Stryker
Like he was a dead weight sack of flaccid meat
Just starting to turn.
Joseph S. Pete is an Iraq War infantry veteran who served in OIF III, an award-winning journalist, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His work has appeared in As You Were, O-Dark-Thirty, The Grief Diaries, Gravel, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, Lumpen, Stoneboat, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Euphemism, and elsewhere. He’s okay at hyperbole, he guesses.