Resident Poetry: Reflections on Citizenship
Benjamin Pinto is a poet and Project HOME resident.
RAGGED OLD FLAG
I walked through a county courthouse square.
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old Court House is kinda run down."
He said, "No, it will do for our little town."
I said, "Your old flag Pole is leaning a little bit.
And that's a ragged old Flag you've got hanging on it."
He said, "Have a seat," and I sat down
"Is the first time that you've been to our little town?"
"Well," he said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that ragged old Flag.
You see, we got a little hole in the Flag there,
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder burns, the night Francis Scott Key,
Sat watching it, writing 'Oh, Say, Can You See.'
And it got a bad rip at New Orleans,
When Packingham and Jackson took it to the scene
And, it almost fell at the Alamo beside the Texas Flag
But she waved on through
She got cut with a sword at Chancerville,
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard and Bragg
The South wind blew hard on that Old Ragged Flag
On Flanders Field in World War One
She got a big hole from a Bertha Gun
She turned BLOOD RED World War Two,
And she hung limp and low a time or two.
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went from our ships upon the briny foam.
Now they've about quit waving her back here at home
In our good land she's been abused,
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused
And the Government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
She's getting threadbare and she's wearing thin,
But, she's in good shape for the shape she's in,
Because she's been through the fire before,
I believe she can take a whole lot more.
So we raise her up every morning, and we
Take her down every night,
We don't let her touch the ground,
and we fold her up right.
On second thought, I DO LIKE TO BRAG,
BECAUSE I'M MIGHTY PROUD OF THAT RAGGED OLD FLAG!
S.Y.O.T.O.S. (SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE)
There were 10 of us, when we all met, We all looked around, like we knew each other our whole lives, we grew up together knowing we would always be friends.
Now we are much more than friends, we are a family, we all went to school together, sat next to each other in the same class, and caused a little trouble here and there, but when 9/11 happened we already knew what our goal was after high school.
For those 4 years we motivated others, as well as ourselves, we did all the fun stuff any teenager would do, but our goal was to graduate high school first and so we did.
We all went to boot camp at the same time, not knowing where we would end up after we got out, the 10 of us finished boot camp at the top of our platoon May 5, 2004, and closed out our graduating class.
As luck would have it, we all ended up in the same unit, in the same place, at the same time, First Battalion, 32nd support unit, Bagdad, Iraq, “We got our orders!!” I say in motivation “Now let’s show these people what we American Marines are really made of!!” To which there response is “Semper Fi, HOORA!!”
For those of you who do not know what “Semper Fi” means, it means “always faithful” As the Marines’ service song states “we never lost our nerve” in the heat of a fight.
One year after boot camp, we all survived our rookie year, in that year we all made rank, we went from Private, to Private 1st class, all the way to Sergeant.
As the months went on we found ourselves in our first big firefight. Sadly the first of us to fall was Sergeant Alice Finn the youngest of our 10 person family born 1985 died July 2005 and so the first call was made saying she will not be coming home alive her body now resting in a grave and awaiting the rest of her platoon family “9 of us left”.
9 of us angry and sad but we all had a job to do and that was kick butt and cross off names on our hit list, and we did just that, three months later another one of us falls Sergeant James Rawles born 1983 died October 2005.
2006 took three more members of our unit, Sergeant Kim Rollins born 1984, Died February 2006, Sergeant Stuart Paolini born 1982, Died August 2006 And Sergeant Iris Harrison born 1983, Died November 2006.
Three more phone calls to make all with the same message. “There not coming home” Their bodies sent home to be buried in that small plot of land where our youngest has been put to rest, now joined by three of our oldest she is not alone anymore.
2007 was no different Sergeant Robert Woods was taken out on the first day of the New Year along with the call that was made so many times before. But as our job would have it we continued to move forward and didn’t let them die in vain we did what did best.
March 9 my birthday a day that was the beginning of my life instead it was a day of loss for another fallen Marine as another phone call is made, and another body sent home Sergeant Isabella Douglass, born 1985, died March 9th 2007.
Several months later Sergeant Drew Benedict is gunned down. I was standing next to him when he was killed. As he died he watched me shoot back with courage and commitment but in all actuality I was shooting back with rage, anger, and adrenaline. Sergeant Sara Johansen saw what happened and joined the fight, to state some humor in the middle of this firefight “I thought you were a diplomat!!!” I said, to which her response is “there comes a time in a young woman’s life when…” BANG BANG!! BANG!! BANG!! BANG!! “AWWW YOU GET THE POINT!!” Sergeant Drew Benedict, born 1984, died July 2007.
The rest of 2007 for the two of us that were left went without a single shot fired only to find out that Sergeant Sara Johansen was captured and imprisoned it was now my job to get her back and so I did find her, the only difference was we had to fight our way out. We were half way out of the prison camp when we were met by a U.S. convoy what a relief it was to see them.
But on the way back amongst all the shooting of getting her out of that camp she died in my arms of all places month before she told me “I would rather die in the arms of someone I trust with my life rather than alone on the ground”. At the moment she passed on I held he close to me as she said her last words “S.Y.O.T.O.S. Sergeant Pinto”.
And as a gesture of gratitude I said “It was a pleasure to fight by your side and rescue you Sergeant Johansen S.Y.O.T.O.S.”. Sergeant Sara Johansen born 1984, died December 2007.
Fast forward 2017 and I’m still here, all of them buried in the same place waiting for me, every morning I look in the mirror and I see them behind me I know they got my back they can no longer speak to me but they know what I mean when I say “S.Y.O.T.O.S.” which stands for
See you on the other side.