Brother Joe

September 25, 2009

To my unjustly imprisoned brother,

I raise a glass to our enduring friendship, brother Joseph. How could we have imagined, those many decades ago, that we would still be alive, let alone still be in touch?

Of the hundreds that were our comrades in those turbulent times, we stand nearly alone in knowing where the others are located, and what has become of them. I oft reminisce and envision the faces of those that were such an integral part of my life back then. Eternally young and vibrant. I may have passed some on the avenue of life and failed to recognize them with the erosion that time takes on our individual landscapes.

I fail to recognize myself in the mirror, so how am I to recognize others? But you, my oId friend, are recognizable in the words that you pen. Same indomitable spirit, same sense of humor, albeit tempered by time and circumstance.

I stroll the hallways of memory on occasion, and I still see two relatively carefree young Marines with boundless energy and little need for sleep. Eyes constantly searching the horizon for the next conquest, but only if it had a certain element of daring do and a pinch of mischief. Each day may have an element of pain, but never enough to stem the tide of anticipation at what adventures awaited outside the gate at 16:30. The world outside the gate would hold its breath and say: "Lookout, here they come again."

The Joe of that day had well hidden physical pain and emotional embers that were still glowing in the dark. Yet the embers remained unseen by most, and the acrid smell of war that embeds itself deeply into the fabric of our very souls escaped the nostrils of all but a few.

Long weekends away from the Brasso and the regimentation of military life allowed a much needed diversion. Visiting small towns hidden along rivers or railroad tracks, and meeting those that had no concept as yet of just how cruel and unjust the world outside their little town could be, provided a necessary lifeline to the cocooned existence that we ourselves possessed in the not too distant past. Cold beer, good friends, high school football, and young girls that loved guys in uniforms were a much needed reminder that life did exist beyond the blood stained Globe and Anchor.

In actuality, those close friends, family, and lovers were, and are till this day, the justification for the blood stains on the Globe and Anchor. They bring a sense of reason and purpose to the blood stains and pain.

I no longer see that same indestructible youth in dress blues when I look in the mirror, but I continue to feel his heart beating within my chest and his spirit in my thoughts.

I see it also in the picture that you sent me. I need only to look at the eyes and I can see the spirit of the one who walked beside me those many years ago. A time when we laughed more often, with less reason, and threw caution to the wind as we anticipated the thrill of the magic carpet ride of life that lay ahead of us.

Caution be damned! Step up on the carpet with us and hang on. We failed to understand those that wouldn't embrace with us the thrill of the ride in lieu of staying on the ground where, although less thrilling, it provided them a false sense of security.

I feel that we learned early on that security is just a mirage, so step aboard and embrace the wind and hang on. We didn't wait for someone to tell us what lay around the next bend. We forged ahead and looked for ourselves. Sometimes taking the lumps that accompany a pioneering spirit.

I feel the same spirit in the words that you pen and send to me. That same Joe, full of life, that I knew then, is peering out at me with eyes that bestir the spirit. The constant erosion of the physical being has left us much changed in appearance. But the same fire that forged our friendship those many years ago still burns within our spirits. We may not slay as many dragons with our tarnished swords, but time and experience have shown us other ways to defeat them.

Life sometimes leaves scars, and ours were earned. Each a reminder of past victories . . . or defeats. Each served a useful purpose. Some remind us that courage has a price but is well worth the reward. Others remind us that there may have been a better way of doing things had we given more thought to some of our reckless endeavors.

I still feel within me that same spirit of adventure that was one of the cords in our common bond. The changes of life and the responsibilities that accompany them have a tempering affect on the unbridled spirit. A bit in the mouth of a free-born mustang. We accept the bit willingly in most cases (your present circumstances excluded), for the rewards are plentiful. But the spirit oft races through my dreams and still longs to step upon the carpet and ride the wind.

We, my oId friend, were and are kindred spirits that could never settle for the mundane. Age or circumstance may entrap the body, but the spirit of those like us will never settle for less than dancing on the wind. That quality can never be tamed, enslaved, or imprisoned as long as we possess clear thought. I will sail the Sea of Adventure anytime I choose by merely closing my eyes. While others bemoan world events or conditions and are prisoners to anxiety and worry, I will look down on them from a snow-capped mountain. I will breathe the crisp, cold air and reject membership in the Order of the Lemmings.

I much appreciate the picture that you sent, as it allowed a vista to the soul through the eyes of an old friend. God Bless and Semper Fi.

Your friend and fellow sojourner on the road less traveled,


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