A local boy was cutting grass one Sunday afternoon,
amidst the granite markers and the shrubs still left to prune.
And as he wove his way around the obstacles at hand,
he saw a fellow kneeling on a patch of harrowed land.
The man was bent and crying as he leaned against the stone
conversing with a spirit – like he wasn’t there alone.
‘Twas clear he’d been a soldier by the patches on his shirt
and the artificial leg beneath him, nestled in the dirt.
With all the brash and innocence that kids that age possess,
he walked up to the soldier with condolement to express.
But as the boy drew closer, he could see that on the stone
was not a human’s image, but a dog he must have owned.
Below, he'd propped a picture of a puppy’s silhouette –
a mutt he’d found on foreign ground, abused and soaking wet.
The soldier wiped his tears away and raised his hand to greet,
then he tried to gain composure as he struggled to his feet.
While shaking hands, he wondered why a dog was buried here
in a garden meant for people – to the boy, it wasn’t clear.
It was then he asked what took his life – what caused him to expire,
the soldier stood and bowed his head, “he died from friendly fire”.
The soldier sauntered over to a bench not far away
and the lad sat down beside him so the man could have his say.
He would tell a warrior’s story of a soldier far from home
in a setting rife with danger – hostile towns he had to comb.
“From care and special training for this puppy that I’d found,
would emerge a special soldier who would keep me safe and sound.
He'd pave the way in battle, seeking things that might explode,
like an IED I couldn’t see – in a hole beside the road.
On nights that found us sleeping underneath an open sky,
he’d be right there to give me warmth and to keep a watchful eye.
We braved a few deployments to that God-forsaken land,
but civilian life together didn’t turn out like we’d planned.
I watched his vigor dwindle and his youthful spirit fade –
the pain from natural causes, while his body would degrade.
When his love for life had ended, it was time to set him free,
so I picked a date to reciprocate for the things he'd done for me.
My friend had saved me more than once – he protected me from harm,
and I watched him take his final breath as I held him in my arms.”
And on that note, he stood up straight and he snapped a crisp salute,
then he folded up that picture and he tucked it in his boot.
He never saw that man again, but that grave got special care,
he was glad he'd heard the story of the hero buried there.