SOUTH CHINA SEA (June 13, 2015) Lightning strikes the water as San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) navigates between storms. The Essex Amphibious Ready Group is currently operating in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Liam Kennedy/Released)

Band of Brothers

by Steve Nolan

I loved them.

I did not love them beforehand–
in honky-tonk bars drunk with alcohol,
football, and crude jokes about women,
including the women standing close by.
The ones who they wanted desperately
to undress (except for the one with the flattest chest
or bad teeth or too much adipose tissue).

And I would not love them after, with their fears
of socialism stoked by rich radio
pundits they believed shared a common
patriotism; not when they maligned
their commander in chief with a level of venom
never uttered at anyone white. Not when
they purchased weapons, sported Confederate flags,
and feared big government would torch their 2nd
Amendment church if they stood idly by.

But there in those mountains when they mounted up
for a ground assault convoy with a mission-first
acceptance of daily life, and no discernible
trace of fear; or at midnight, when I heard
a chopper coming in with casualties and they
insisted their buddies be seen first no matter
what their own wounds—there in the medical aid
station where it was clear to see that they
were all good thieves on a cross, or when we hunkered-
down in the same bomb shelter taking incoming,
I wrote it in my journal, I said it out loud
drowned by the noise of a Black Hawk,
I thought it repeatedly when alone sipping
coffee in an observation post:

I loved them.