by Meghan Counihan

I wished to fight with you “my brothers”,
I served my country but my sacrifice was somehow never your equal.
I weaned my infant from my breast,
a month later I covered them with the same uniform, and my shoulders with the same patches as you and I boarded that white bus.
Before dawn broke, my baby slept, as I slung that M-16 over my shoulder.
She awoke that morning; and her mother was gone.

You all laughed about how you would miss your babies, but your wives were there to hold them safe and sound. Safe with their mothers?
What assurance did I have?
A twenty three hour flight, a twenty three hour river of tears I wept.
I wiped my face, and changed my soaking bra, trying to command my body to forget what I had just done.
A woman’s body can never be a numb as yours “my brother”.
If I cry, I am weak and emotional.
If you cry, “my brother”, you are war torn and broken.
If I can’t hump that 80 lb ruck, I am weak.
I am one hundred pounds!
No sympathy from you, “my brother”, as my shoulders crack, my hips turn black and blue, and I slide on my blood filled boots, soaked from the blisters.
I bear my load as a Soldier.
I watch you, “my brother”, as you refuse to hold the door for me,
As you leave the DFAC, I see you hold it open for all your brothers to pass through.
Do you remember that “my brother”?
Remember me in my humiliation as I sawed off the top of a gatorade bottle to piss in, and you hit the brakes for me to spill it all over myself?
Our “brothers” looked on as we exposed ourselves to the Afghan countryside in search of relief.
We are vulnerable.
We are exposed.
You broke my heart last Veteran’s Day, when you proudly posted on your wall a banner to all your “brothers in arms”.
For your sacrifice.
And I must say, “What about your sister?”
I am an afterthought.
That night outside Shank?
I was there too.
Remember? How I thought the RPG’s were fireworks?
That’s how green I was.
I too watched him bleed upon the road.
I sobbed silently in my truck in the dark, as you all gathered somewhere else to mourn.
I was alone then “my brother”.
But I felt the same terrors as you.
I swallowed the same lump in my throat.
I carry the same lonely burdens of war.
I trekked the same miles, wore the same rank,
burned the same diesel fuel, made the same mistakes.
Ate the same shitty food, laid awake at night.
But somehow, you think I asked for it?
I bear the same ragged scars that will never heal, “my brother”.
I pray you would never treat your real sisters this way.

One thought on “Brothers

  1. Dear Ms. Meghan Counihan,

    Thank you for writing “Brothers”. Reading it several times over several days, I thought and then thought some more. I wanted to comment by writing something that would not sound, come across, or be interpreted as my being impudent. I also do not want attempt to present to you an excuse for the inexcusable. In fact, I was and am reluctant to comment at all because, although I would like to say that I did not consciously or unconsciously disrespect female soldiers, that would be a lie. I must own that. I doubt that you are looking for an apology, though you and other female soldiers certainly deserve it. I do however, sincerely apologize to you and to the women that have experienced the same lack of respect afforded male soldiers. Others must own that as well. That apology will come up short, as it should. Not only was I wrong in what I did, I was wrong in what I failed to do. I lacked the courage to call my peers out where I witnessed anything less than respect.

    I am 58 years old now. I was in the U.S. Army from 1986 – 1994, an E5/SGT when I was medically boarded. You, and every female soldier deserves the same respect as male soldiers. I pray that you get it, because it has been earned.

    Because to me, this is a systemic issue and I have to surmise that this crosses all branches of the service, I hope that your poem “Brothers” is used in every training opportunity the military offers, Basic Training, MOS Training, all through TRADOC, our NCO Academies, Leadership Training, Officer Candidate School and our Military Academies.

    With Respect,
    Mark Seery

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