Courtesy of Frederick Hart/Vietnam Veterans Memorial

They come for them while they are still growing into skin. Their flesh stretching, becoming something new. Little pieces of heartache dipped in twisted lips and contorted positions. They launch rockets, send baby men to the angry sea.

Its mouth willing to swallow them whole.

They knock on your door with pocketed folded flags, prepared to tell you about his “job well done” and you stand on shaky feet knowing but not wanting to know. Your heart is liquid. It slides down your legs and forms a puddle before them.

The flag is given to you with a smile and a practiced speech—prompted condolences. You want to say, “Thank you for your service,” but you have forgotten how to do it without turning into a human being stripped of everything that matters.

They salute you. You are the receiver of his praise, for dying for a country that stopped caring for his life the moment he stepped on the front lines. But, you have been serviced. You have your perfectly folded flag as a reminder and the prompted condolences too.

There’s just one thing missing, though.
And he’s not coming back.

Originally published on Medium.