Left Behind

The hole in my heart has always been there. It was there when I silently screamed for the approval of my parents. It was there when I scorned teachers who believed in my abilities. It was there when I reached out for friendship while hiding behind a wall of isolation. It was there when I lay by a little gray stone and cried, “Why not me?” And it was there the day my dream of making a difference, being significant, was torn to shreds. That was the day my bloodied body was lifted by strong arms, placed on broad shoulders, and carried through a steaming South-East Asia jungle. I heard the “wop, wop, wop” of helicopter blades and then everything turned black.

Trained to do battle; trained to leave no man behind. I am a Marine and I am the man who should have been left behind. The pain of recovery pales in light of the emptiness caused by the hole in my heart. A military decoration does nothing to fill the void.

My family attempted to embrace me but I rejected them for the streets, another battlefield. Loneliness, cold, and fear are now dulled by drink, but the hole in my heart remains.

Last night our encampment was raided. A police officer took my possessions and chased me from my home under the bridge. His eyes looked sad. He said he was sorry. “Orders,” he said. I understand. I’m a Marine.

Now I sit in a park where hundreds pass but no one sees. My makeshift tent is gone. My birth certificate is gone. My brother's picture is gone. My discharge papers are gone. My purple heart is gone. My warm coat and gloves are gone. Shadows of towering buildings remind me of the darkness of a city that has turned its back. This country, my country that I pledged to serve and defend, seems blind to my existence. Am I a son? Am I a brother? Am I a Marine? Am I the one left behind?

~ Artwork by Big Bro who blogs over at String Too Short to Tie.

(The inspiration for this story came from pictures my brother drew and sent to me. His challenge for me was to write a story to go with them.)


  1. You have told the story behind the shoes so exceedingly well that I am flattered that you chose to include the picture. Well done.

    1. Not sure why, but I fell in love with the shoe picture when I first saw it on your blog. Then the additional pictures you sent helped form the story in my mind. Thanks for letting me build on your work.