THE INFANTRY MAN
The average age of the Infantryman is 19 years.
He is a short-haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal
circumstances, is considered by society as half man, half
boy; he is not yet dry behind the ears, not yet old enough
to buy a beer, yet he is old enough to die for his country.
He never really cared much for work and would rather wax his
own car than wash his father's, but he has never collected
He's a high school graduate, probably a C student, he
pursued some sports, and drives a ten year old jalopy.
He has a girlfriend that either broke up with him when he
left or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a
He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or
swing and 155mm Howitzers.
He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home;
he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.
He has trouble spelling; letter writing is a pain for him,
but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble
it in less time in the dark.
He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or
grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.
He digs foxholes and latrines; he applies first aid like a pro.
He can march until he is told to stop.
He can stop until he is told to march.
He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is
not without spirit or individual dignity.
He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues; he washes
one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full; his feet dry.
He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle.
He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own
hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you
are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in
the midst of battle when you run low.
He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they
were his hands. He can save your life - or take it, because that
is his job.
He will often do twice the work of a civilian at half the pay, and
find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death
then he should have in his short lifetime, and more than most of us
will ever see.
He has looked down from atop mountains of dead bodies, sometimes
mountains he helped to create.
He has held the hands of friends as they took their last breath.
He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in
combat and is unashamed.
He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body
while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to
'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand,
remove their hat, or even stop talking. In sad irony, he has
risked his life, and has seen friends die, in order to defend
this right to be disrespectful.
He has seen protesters burn flags, with anger and hatred towards
their country, yet he loves his country so much, he has gone to war
and risked his life to protect the rights of those people.
Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he
is paying the price for our freedom.
Beardless or not, he is not a boy.
He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for
over 200 years.
He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.
Remember him always. He has earned respect and admiration with his blood.
Somewhere tonight, there is a man holding a gun, standing post,
thinking, "No one will get through, no one will hurt them tonight.
Not on my watch."
When you celebrate Independence Day this year, remember who brought
you the independence you celebrate so freely.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag,
who holds the flag close to his heart, who gave his life to defend the
flag, or who saw his comrades give their lives for that same reason,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gave the protester the
right to burn the flag.