Monsters and the Weak

A friend sent me this in an e-mail. I have no information on its validity, etc. I did think is was rather touching. Now for those who jump on the 'American' slant to the piece, I would say that the word American, could be substituted with any of the 'coalition' countries.

Monsters and the Weak

Michael Marks

The sun beat like a hammer, not a cloud was in the sky.
The mid-day air ran thick with dust, my throat was parched and dry.
With microphone clutched tight in hand and cameraman in tow,
I ducked beneath a fallen roof, surprised to hear "stay low."

My eyes blinked several times before in shadow I could see,
the figure stretched across the rubble, steps away from me.
He wore a cloak of burlap strips, all shades of grey and brown,
that hung in tatters till he seemed to melt into the ground.

He never turned his head or took his eye from off the scope
but pointed through the broken wall and down the rocky slope.
"About eight hundred yards," he said, his whispered words concise,
"beneath the baggy jacket he is wearing a device."

A chill ran up my spine despite the swelter of the heat,
"You think he's gonna set it off along the crowded street?"
The sniper gave a weary sigh and said "I wouldn't doubt it,"
"unless there's something this old gun and I can do about it."

A thunderclap, a tongue of flame, the still abruptly shattered;
while citizens that walked the street were just as quickly scattered.
Till only one remained, a body crumpled on the ground,
The threat to oh so many ended by a single round.

And yet the sniper had no cheer, no hint of any gloat,
instead he pulled a logbook out and quietly he wrote.
"Hey, I could put you on TV, that shot was quite a story!"
But he surprised me once again -- "I got no wish for glory."

"Are you for real?" I asked in awe, "You don't want fame or credit?"
He looked at me with saddened eyes and said "you just don't get it."
"You see that shot-up length of wall, the one without a door?
Before a mortar hit, it used to be a grocery store."

"But don't go thinking that to bomb a store is all that cruel,
the rubble just across the street -- it used to be a school.
The little kids played soccer in the field out by the road,"
His head hung low, "They never thought a car would just explode."

"As bad as all this is though, it could be a whole lot worse,"
He swallowed hard, the words came from his mouth just like a curse.
"Today the fight's on foreign land, on streets that aren't my own,
I'm here today 'cause if I fail, the next fight's back at home."
"And I won't let my Safeway burn, my neighbors dead inside,
don't wanna get a call from school that says my daughter died;
I pray that not a one of them will know the things I see,
nor have the work of terrorists etched in their memory."

"So you can keep your trophies and your fleeting bit of fame,
I don't care if I make the news, or if they speak my name."
He glanced toward the camera and his brow began to knot,
"If you're looking for a story, why not give this one a shot."
"Just tell the truth of what you see, without the slant or spin;
that most of us are OK and we're coming home again.
And why not tell our folks back home about the good we've done,
how when they see Americans, the kids come at a run."

You tell 'em what it means to folks here just to speak their mind,
without the fear that tyranny is just a step behind;
Describe the desert miles they walk in their first chance to vote,
or ask a soldier if he's proud, I'm sure you'll get a quote."
He turned and slid the rifle in a drag bag thickly padded,
then looked again with eyes of steel as quietly he added;
"And maybe just remind the few, if ill of us they speak,
that we are all that stands between the monsters and the weak."
By Robert Stacy McCain
December 20, 2005

The messages come from across the country and around the world from service members and their families, thanking Michael Marks for his poetry. Posted on Web sites and circulated through e-mails, Mr. Marks' poems "A Soldier's Christmas" and "The Sands of Christmas" add a patriotic touch to the holidays.

"I am a United Methodist pastor and a Vietnam veteran A-4 pilot," one e-mail says. "I found your poem at and appreciate it very much. I am writing to ask your permission to read it to my congregation on Christmas Eve."

Another e-mail says, "I am writing to tell you how much your poems have meant to our family, especially to my brother who is serving on a submarine. We had sent him a copy of 'A Soldier's Christmas' because we thought he would like it.... He wrote back to say that on Christmas Eve it was read on the intercom for everybody to hear. He said that it really brought a bit of home when they were so far away on Christmas."

Mr. Marks, 41, a Leesburg, Va., resident, says he has been interested in poetry since sixth grade, when he won a school poetry contest. "I guess it stuck," says the defense consultant and author of "The Emergency Responder's Guide to Terrorism."

Thanks to the Internet, his poems have made him something of a holiday hero. A Google search for his poems turns up 1,000 links to "A Soldier's Christmas" written in 2000, and 800 links for "The Sands of Christmas" written in 2003.

He grew up in "a very patriotic household," Mr. Marks says. His father was a Marine veteran and missile engineer. Mr. Marks recalls going out, at age 5, "in my best little suit with my grandma selling red paper poppies to fund raise for the American Legion Auxiliary."

He turned to poetry on Pearl Harbor Day -- December 7 -- in 2000 to express concern after some soldiers' absentee ballots were questioned during that year's presidential elections.

"Sitting here listening to all this, I started thinking about ways to say 'thank you' " to the troops, Mr. Marks says. That inspired 'A Soldier's Christmas' about a dream encounter with a soldier who says, "to know you remember we fought and we bled is payment enough."

"I put it out on the Web. I didn't think it would draw the level of response it did," Mr. Marks says. "I started getting e-mails from everywhere -- Bosnia, Okinawa, everywhere you could imagine."

That reaction encouraged him to write more poems, including 'The Name on the Wall' about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"The 390th Strategic Missile Wing contacted me and asked me to write a poem for the dedication of the Titan Missile Museum... That poem, 'When Titans Walked' was read at the dedication and hangs framed in the museum," Mr. Marks says.

His work is posted at the International War Veterans' Poetry Archives (, but also is all over the Web -- with the poet's generous permission.

'The Sands of Christmas' was inspired when Mr. Marks compared his problems -- he is a fan of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, who had "lost by six" -- with the challenges faced by soldiers who have "no Christmas turkey, just a pack of MREs," or meals ready to eat.

His works have earned him no money, Mr. Marks said, but that doesn't matter. He gets paid in grateful e-mails, like this one:

"I am the mother of two sons in the U.S. Army -- one a combat engineer with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan and the other a medic with the 172nd Infantry at Fort Wainwright, Fairbanks, Alaska. Neither will be home for Christmas this year. Thank you for expressing in such beautiful words the gratitude we should all have for our warriors of the U.S. military."

When he first posted his poetry online, Mr. Marks said, "I didn't even know if anyone would read the thing.... The return on it has been more than any dollar figure that I could ever put on it.

Just to let you know who he is.
It surely could be! Although, I didn't see the posted one listed there.
Trip_Wire look at the poem under "Reporting from the front".
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