War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Lucky Charm (from May Day, Letters to Afghanistan)

M,

it’s that season again. good cheer. will towards men. the big star. angels we have heard on high. and venus, tiny sparkler in the sky.

J took me to a big Christmas “do” at the armoury. needed a date and his chica was on stray duty at the S.P.C.A.

so J put on his kilt and brass button kit, the whole nine yards, literally— and I have to tell you M, girls love a man in a skirt, they couldn’t keep their hands off J’s hemline all night. trying to guess whether he wears it in traditional style or not. looked at me as if I’d know. “your guess is as good as mine women,” I smiled, (and M, I really don’t know).

I wore black. the usual.

so we go to the Officers Mess. all dark wood and brass. and the brass are there—maple leaves and crowns and stripes. General X (ret’d) and Colonel Y, a few LColonels, Majors, more than a couple Captains, passel of Lieutenants. and a Padre. French Canadian. Catholic. comme toi.

so I speak my rusty French and he is charmant, but what else would he be? (I don’t know if it’s how they teach you guys to treat women, or if it’s just me, but it was a warm breeze that blew in with him quand il parle la belle langue).

anyway, we get talking. half English half French. about his last tour of Afghanistan. and the heavy load you guys bear. IEDs, suicide bombers, snipers. “but in a weird sort of way, that’s not the worst,” he says, “it’s the guys who survive. walk shadowy the rest of their lives. the long, slow insurgent slipped into brain fold when RPG evaporates the guy up front of the LUV DUB and the passenger seat he sat in. it’s the survivors that wear him forever (their families too). or else, they pull the pin. had way too many of those funerals I’m afraid to count.

Padre looks around the room, blinks, “eight months and I still jump when the door slams shut. war noise. and that’s me. someone who believes. what about them?” Padre looks at all the young men laughing. clutching their drinks,

never been inside a church except for weddings of friends. now funerals.

it’s a curious thing, but these guys, post-religion, joystick generation, all want me with them. there was talk about cancelling the pastoral program but the soldiers had a fit.

and in Afghanistan, and even when they’re back, when soldier and I talk, he always has to touch me. on shoulder, elbow, arm. as if some of my God-luck will wear off on them. as if I’m their lucky charm.

and they carry all sorts of talismans when they go over. jade tiger, bear claw, a feather, a special stone from home, the old standby four-leaf clover. and miraculous medals, blessed, given them by a grandmother or mother or friend. close to their heart. always.

and we have rabbis. and at least one imam. and we’re all so busy. and will be. funerals. hospital visits. counseling. advocating. and when this war ends, there’ll be a lifetime’s work to do.

Padre takes my address. says he’ll send me a Tan CADPAT CF Bible. “keepsake if nothing else”

and I’m not religious M, never have been, never could. I worship at the temple of flamenco. it gives meaning, life, my daily bread. but I’ll put Padre’s bible somewhere safe with your stack of letters. hope and pray in my way, that something inside, some charm, some desert fathers’ good luck. will wear off those onion skin pages onto you , mon ami. mon soldat. soi distant. de moi.

S


2 Comments (Closed)

Osoman

There is a strong tradition within the forces that connects the soldier with the padre. I’m not sure if its a religious connection especially as you say, we are the joystick generation. But to this day I have nothing but fond memories about the Padres I’ve worked with. They almost sit above the rank and file that is the bread and butter of army. They have the ear of the CO and yet they are approachable in confidence and provide a connection to something outside the regimental system. I think that so much of your ‘self’ has to be put aside, hidden when you work within the combat arms and the Padres provide a connection back to that ‘self’.

Dec 02 2008 · 17:23

smsteele

osoman, I find these comments of yours to be very profound and insightful, especially “that so much of your ‘self’ [the soldier] has to be put aside… the Padres provide a connection back…” Thank you so much for contributing. I cannot imagine what it means to be a soldier, especially within combat arms. I can only hope that my words have a faint echo and depend upon you (soldiers) to keep me from veering off course.

Dec 02 2008 · 18:08

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Lucky Charm (from May Day, Letters to Afghanistan). It was posted here on December 02, 2008.

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