Poem Collection by a Veteran Warrior

**A narrative of the author’s experience, “Forming A Warrior” can be found here. These are the beautiful poems of Christylee Vickers**

The Price of Life

A life shift occurred at the moment

I began training with my weapon

To take another life.
Bullets, Buttstock, or Bayonet

Just carrying my weapon,

 my M16-  I felt it.

 The burden of life taking given to me.

A responsibility I didn’t take lightly, or with glee.

Every bullet released and target hit a reminder of what I signed up to do.

I could take life,

 but I was being trained to protect Life as well.


The Good Part

Germany was Everything, I wanted to get and experience in the Military
I had leadership, mentors, and friendships forged I keep to this day.

I wasn’t treated more or less because of my gender.

Those who underestimated me, were quickly set right.

My ability to do my job was all that mattered.

I had the world at my fingertips, and my distance from home was for all the right reasons.
I learned what I was capable of doing.
I put all my life lessons and skills in motion.

I had Grit; and I broke the mold.

I could do whatever I put my mind to.


3 Lightbulbs

We didn’t know it, but the first time our eyes would meet my soul would find shelter in you. My dreams would find the mystery answered, in you.
My fears would calm, and search was over.
As quickly as I felt the assurance in all these things, I said hello.
Then they came true. I love you.

* Three months after arriving to Ft. Campbell, I met my husband, I was dirty, and needed a shower. My unit was doing a training exercise, and his unit was there as support. Only through a mutual acquaintance did our paths cross and we have walked along side each other since.


That Day

Do not ask me what I know of war, of my time there, my experience.
            I can quote you the facts, the places and things my job entailed.

I will give you a peek, but do not ask at what point I was lost,

where I have struggled to return from.

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
There are no words, only my raw senses grabbing

bits of things. It hurts.
I am still trying to piece it all together, make sense of

the moment that haunts me and can consume me.
I try to find a way to heal, with pills, therapy, and getting it

down, so I can logically see it as it was, not just feel it

over and over. Fuck you for wanting me to pin-point the moment.

It’s all the moment.

It’s all a blur. I will cry. I will go distant.

If you prod me for more I will go back there and its weight

will bear me down. Recovery is a long road, and I have been on it

for such a long time.

Half of me, the best part, is lost in Iraq. It’s the part I wish I had

for my children. So they could know who I was before That Day.

I want so badly to have the trust and ignorance of those

who never go to war or send someone they love. I want their blind

faith in the system they support.

Did I break enough for you to know that I did experience it—

war, the dirty thing no one really wins?

I am lost in the rattling of the building, hours of mortars with no aim

other than us. I feel the dirt and sand in my eyes, try to rub it out

in my sleep ten years later. It wakes me up. I feel the earth move.

I see the craters of past attacks on my walks. Even now, every hole,

each indention on a flat surface, morphs into a cheating of death.
I see dried blood on T-walls, smell the dust, feel myself

clench in expectation of the unexpected. There’s no release.

I am still clenched, still BATTLE- READY, still on alert. I feel

complete disregard for life, any life . . . mine.

Now that I am home or at least miles and years away

from where I see myself, even now That Day ripples and overlaps

with this day, any day.

The part of me that wanted to change the world and protect what

I held dear dissolved into a primal need to survive.

And that is what I feel shame for.

I feel the pity of those who really went into battle.

Can you validate that my time Over There was for something?

Do you believe I was protected by barb-wire and concrete?

In buildings someone before us took? War is about taking

what you want and looking at what you did to get it,

how you made others fear you. We are all exposed.

What is the answer you are looking for?

I knew I could die.

I wanted nothing more than to live.
And every day I battle myself, searching for some light.

I don’t want That Day to define me. I want to move on, to stop feeling it.

I am angry at myself for not being okay with accepting my own death,

for wanting to take the life I have now, to snuff out the past,

That Day. I feel shame that I am glad I wasn’t killed.

And shame that those who died felt it was worth it

while I don’t. The War isn’t worth it.

It has not been grounded on a worthy cause.

I feel shame because until That Day and that moment,

I thought it was for a greater good. That my death would be more

than an ache in a mother’s heart.

I feel anger, rage, frustration, and invisible.

I feel shame

I feel disappointment

I feel loss

I feel alone

I feel forgotten

I feel like I did die

and the shell of me is a memory of my best parts.

I am trying not to drown in this bleakness

where pitch-black waves

grab and pull me down.

How dare you ask me how That Day, That Moment impacts my life

and to what intensity. Screw You

for telling me you have other people coming in, true trauma victims

and survivors.  FUCK YOUR IMPLICATIONS of priority,

of what battle and war are to you.
I was sent. I did my job, dammit,

to Hell and back. I was in the Army.

I went to Iraq. I saw death and mangled vehicles.

I saw that it’s easier to hate, to retaliate,

to kill what makes us different.

An eye for an eye.
Bomb them.
Shock and Awe.

Nation Building—what a joke. It’s rape/pillage/plunder.

I still don’t have the words.

I still can’t

tell you. Every time I try, I slip, I fall, I am overtaken.

It was all for a lie.

I was there and it changed nothing but me.

That DAY… That Moment- That Blur of time on constant loop


Birth and Rebirth

I carry my light inside me, heavy like the harvest

that summer’s abundance brings.

The light helps me not fade into darkness.
When ripples of battles ebb and flow,

I have my light transforming me

into mother, each moment and each one after.
It knows my heartbeat from the inside
and shares my blood.
I give birth to my light and find

joy in its movement, once inside and now where I can bear witness.
My child, my light, a reason to fight, and hope.

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