War Changes a Person

Sun, 08/16/2020 - 23:51 -- Cattew

In that moment, her eyes reminded me of the ocean

So full of life, and twinkling a light blue

So I couldn’t bring myself to disagree

With her youthful excitement at the prospect of joining the USAF.

In my heart I was worried, as any friend ought to be,

As I thought this decision rash and unwise

But who would I be to distinguish that flame?


The day she left for training is one I’ll never forget,

All dressed to the nines in her uniform

She waved goodbye to everyone as she boarded,

A beaming smile that promised of adventure

Showing proudly on her face.

I stood there wishing she was back already.


I remember my heart almost stopped the day we entered the war

And her letters told us that she was being sent into combat.

Many days I paced the floor of my apartment thin,

Waiting for her next letter, to say she was okay and safe.


I remember the day her letters stopped coming

And her parents and I averted our gazes when we saw each other in public

Each afraid to voice the possibility

That the day she left was the last day we’d ever see her.


One day when I got home I was accosted by her parents,

Who had finally received word of what had happened.

She and her crew had been shot down over one of the enemy countries

And taken as a Prisoner of War.

It wasn’t the best news, but at least she was alive.


Years later the fighting stopped,

We had won.

She would come home.


We waited for her at the airport,

With posters and signs welcoming her back,

And a huge crowd of relieved friends and family.

She stepped off the airplane, and we waved her over.

She grabbed a small suitcase and walked down the ramp

And started towards us, a tired smile on her face.

When she got close enough, I could tell

She just wasn’t the same.


I had never thought about how war would change her,

Or how that last time I saw her

Would have been the last time I saw her as I remembered her,

Until she came back.


She was given a month to relax –

Or re-acclimate, as that was really what it was –

And so I had plenty of time to hang out with her.

But I was caught off guard every time she’d say something

Or get that look in her eyes that reminded me

That she had been a soldier in war.


Small things had changed,

Such as her laugh.

It was small and hesitant,

As though she was afraid to be too happy,

When it used to be able to fill a room up with joy.


Every time we entered a smaller room,

I noticed her guard went up, and her shoulders tensed,

And she would become hyper-alert,

Aware of every small thing.


She nearly took my head off one time,

When I caught her unawares from behind.

Where she used to jump slightly and laugh,

She tensed and her fight-or-flight instinct

Chose to fight as if her life depended on it.


It frightened me slightly,

When I would lay awake and think about the changes,

Because I couldn’t understand how

A confident young girl who laughed at the world

Could come back so broken and scared.


And when I asked anyone about it,

I would get the same answer,

“War changes a person,”

Every time.


I just find it unfair.

War robbed my friend of her life, and

In essence,

Of whom she was.

Because war changes a person.

This poem is about: 
My country


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