Bourbon Still Burn
I miss the Kentucky bluegrass
And the tall bonfire flame
Now I love the smell of spent brass
Because combat is no longer a video game
I miss them Saturday night sins
And those Sunday morning revivals
Somewhere between Bourbon Road and the Bible Belt
Is where my heart has always been
Now gone I wonder
Will those dirt roads be paved?
The fields plowed over?
Hell, maybe I’m being jaded
Just want to be home where things make sense
Where all you need is a lake and a tailgate
And the world’s problems that seem so tense
You laugh because you know we hold our own fate
How will I ever cope?
My soul just cries and yearns
But for now I just hope
That the bourbon will still burn
I ever make it home
The night before we flew out to the unknown we all walked into a small corner bar in the Midwest. It hit me how this was what Americana is in every sense of the word. As we sat around an old wooden table I could just imagine all of the conversations that table had heard. There wasn’t much talking that night. We sat there sipping on cheap bourbon and smoking even cheaper cigars. Looking into the others eyes I knew they were thinking the same as me. No words were needed and yet a whole conversation came out of our souls. Would this be our last night in America? The waitress kept coming to our table bringing more drinks; yet, every time I threw them back I could still feel that burn. I was a kid who thought I knew what life was. Thinking that bourbon and cigars made you a man. Thinking that, hell, I thought we were indestructible. As the waitress came to cut us off we all looked into each other’s eyes and made a toast- to us, to this moment. We all left half a shot as we stumbled out of that bar promising that we would finish it when we returned home.
Once gone I started to enjoy looking up at the untouched sky there that wasn’t polluted from the smog and lights from back home. You could see all of the stars that night, shining brightly down on us. I have been over here for just a month and I didn’t hate the place yet. As we were driving down the dark highway all that changed. With a blast and the pure hell that followed I knew that this was war. This isn’t a place of beauty nor a game that we used to play out front of the house I grew up in. They were playing for keeps. I couldn’t call “time-out” or run to “base”. No, I was here and there was no changing that fact.
After the encounter we drove back to base without saying a word. Thoughts ran through my head faster than an Olympic Sprinter. Is this who I am? I was taught to love and help your neighbor but tonight there was no love. As I laid on my bunk the thoughts flipped between the night and my childhood. I know that I couldn’t change the events but I kept questioning myself if I was still the same person that I was just a few hours before. I walked to the MWR tent to get on the internet to see if someone was on-line that could answer that question for me.
There was only one person on-line at that time and we talked for a few hours about everything but that night. I wasn’t a monster to them, I was just me. We talked about home and what was going on in the world of sports. As I sat there talking to my friend I knew that the world was different than what we thought it was but it was okay. My thoughts were at home although my body was a world away.
Walking back to my bed I knew that I would change in this year but maybe if I fight hard enough that the change would be small. I needed to get home before I become lost in war.
The intensity of that place picked up and I did become a monster. I had no regret nor remorse for the things I done. They had hurt me and I was going to revenge that hurt. I hated them and they hated me but that was okay.
When I got word that we were finally going home was when I got scared. Funny how being in a combat zone for a year and the words, “You are going home” scares you more than anything you’ve been through. I loved home but I had forgotten what home was. I no longer thought of home as a lake and tailgate. I didn’t see it as watching football on Sunday’s with all of my friends drinking cold ones. Home was a foreign country to me.
I wanted to be home, I truly did but what is home? This was my home. I knew what this place was but home… That is a question that nobody could answer. I had my family and they were the ones that went out with me every night, not the ones with blood relations. The whole time I dreamed about home and I figured I would be the same person when I arrived as the person who left. I don’t even know now if the bourbon would still burn when I get home or if I’ve been to harden by this place.
I didn’t catch those moment in my life when I was young and quick. I later found out I, too will get old and slow and the precious moments that I let slip away are now fleeting and I’m no longer able to grasp them. Moments, sweet moments, are all we get in this thing called life. We all have let them slip away thinking there’s time to get better moments and then years and even decades pass us. We look back with sorrow knowing that we can’t get those memories back. Some of those glasses we left will always be half full now.