I stare at the photo of my father,
that last Remembrance Day,
in awe of a person we never knew.
Just fifteen, the awkwardly tall
figure joined ranks with an elite
squad trained for unarmed combat.
He’s wearing his Commando’s beret,
medals proudly adorning his breast,
symbols whose meaning are now lost.
They were the best and the brightest,
sleuthing out enemy stores, carrying
imperative data to oncoming troops.
He cried that day, as candles glowed –
symbols of lives lost – “Good men,”
he muttered, and squeezed my hand.
A suicide mission, he’d called it,
armed only with a knife and hands
of steel – a black pill if caught.
By day, he never spoke of war,
at night, he screamed in terror,
Why such a mission? I asked.
He’d had his own secret cause,
a war waging within him – bent
on eradicating his heroic flaw.
War made my father – a disciplined,
regimented man of iron, intimidating,
fearless – machismo at its best.
He returned a hero, celebrated
with his hometown, and left again –
the lie still alive within him.
My father was a valiant soldier –
counted himself as privileged –
to serve alongside the honourable.
At fifteen, a girl whose body
belied her existence, enlisted
in a fight to become a man.
* * *
In remembrance of the countless men and women who put their lives on the line in the name of freedom – every one of which has a story.