War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

war stories

a commander of a big Afghan campaign once asked me, “what’s the difference between a war story and a fairy tale?”

I shook my head.

“a fairy tale begins, ‘Once upon a time…’ and a war story begins, ‘So there we were, deep in the shit…’”

I was yacking on the phone recently with greenman. remember him? he’s doing just fine. just fine. his decade of war is done. he’s finding fun again. and something called life.

anyway he was telling me how it is when he meets a vet from other wars (Korea, Viet Nam, WWII) and how they just understand each other. men who’ve been to war. been in the shit (to use the vernacular). mechanized infantry or not, infantry is still infantry. and it doesn’t matter what country the soldiers have served with.

he told me about meeting an Australian who’d served in Viet Nam and who upon arrival home took a cab and made the mistake of telling the cabbie where he’d been. apparently the cabbie pulled over to the side of the road and just kicked the homecoming soldier out of the taxi.

on Rem. Day greenman says, you can look around the legion and spot the ones who’ve been deep in it. they’re quieter.

and I remember my dear, dear Frank. who died way too young. ex-WWII fighter pilot. he never spoke once about the war. but he did name all his children after his fallen comrades.

just after New Year’s I had a good friend, D, from the rifle company, visit me. I took him to meet one of my favourite elders, David. David, newly bereaved, graciously invited us in for a glass of brandy and a chat. after we gave our condolences, sat down and sipped, David and D started talking. they talked for over an hour. David, served in the infantry in WWII in England. he was a marksman. won top honours for his marksmanship with the Sten and then the Bren. “the Bren was awful.” he said to D, “the bloody thing jammed all the time. terrible design.”

then David gave an opinion about Canada in A’stan. David’s grandson, present, made a bit of an excuse for his grandfather’s overt opinions. my friend, just back from his 2nd tour there just smiled and said to him, “I want to thank you for fighting for our freedom of speech sir. for what you gave.” then the two of them launched into discussions about the Avro Aero, then back to WWII life and so on.

David turned to me at one point and said, “I approve”. a great endorsement as David has a finely tuned BS meter.

after we left I thanked D for coming in and meeting David. “you just gave him a great gift. an hour’s relief from his grief. chatting about his war with another infantryman” because once an infantryman, always an infantryman.

a week later my daughter put together a basket of fresh scones, jam, homemade pea soup, flowers, a candle, for David. we dropped it off. when he saw what my daughter had done he said, “this looks like an emergency” then cried, “I guess it IS an emergency” his beloved J gone just 10 days previous.

I said to him, “D sends his regards”

“I liked him. I really did.” David replied. “say hello from one PBI to another PBI

as my daughter and I walked home through the starry night she asked, “what’s a PBI mom”

“Poor Bloody Infantryman!”

we laughed. because as I’ve told her over and over again. the deeper in the shit they get, the happier the infantryman is. PBI my ass!

and even in the mud and hell of his grief, David still has the ability to rise out of it all to sit with a fellow infantryman, 40 years his junior, and remember the days of war.


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled war stories. It was posted here on January 14, 2011.

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