The Rage of George
Rattling of Sabres
The Gods of War
In the Clouds
The Tyrant Flees
Out of Order
Doing the Patriot Act
The Little Prince
Ichor of the Gods
The Price of Peace
Dead or Alive
Across the Border
Summer in the City
Wolf and Jackal
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and The Idyossey?
pilot Toby Swift leans back in his cockpit
Giving in to the G-forces, relaxing,
His body cushioned by the high-tech molded seat.
Rising sharply, air speed reaches Mach 1.5.
In the black night sky, stars sparkling, he breathes
And lets his 21-million-dollar war chariot fly.
Built by Boeing, child of Ares, god of war
The supersonic F-15 races ahead,
Horsepower surging, air-speed bounding
It responds to Toby's every gesture,
Reacts to him with grace, ready to
Bolt forward, engines roaring.
Swift, 35, married with two children, girls both,
Levels off his craft at 28,000 feet, momentarily weightless
As his gravity-defying maneuver reaches apogee.
He still finds floating awesome, like
An angel high in heaven, he thinks, and
Gazes at his family picture taped to the display.
Hard to believe his loved ones are so far away.
A month ago he enjoyed their daily company,
Back each evening for dinner with the family,
Talk of school, weekend plans, shopping trips.
The base at Ramstein, Germany is not Akron,
But with the family on the base it feels like home.
His wife, Charlene, petite and soft spoken, still shy,
His high-school sweetheart since 10th grade,
Fell in love with Toby at first kiss behind the bleachers.
Watched him walking around school with friends,
Liked his warm smile, dimpled cheeks. Made
A point of sitting next to him in English class.
At first he took no notice of her, but she was patient.
In time he turned to her, borrowed pen or paper,
He’d say “thanks” and smile, two dimples forming.
She’d smile back, silent, and then look away, not coy; just
Genuinely shy and self-effacing, sure he thinks her odd,
Not knowing his gaze remains on her.
For his part, Toby found himself drawn to this quiet girl.
Unlike so many others, who always talked, always preened.
Charlene was different, reserved and well behaved.
He began to think there was something special here,
Despite his usual attraction to dark, exotic types,
He found Charlene comfortable, enjoyed their talks.
And then the kiss behind the bleachers, and
Two souls united, life’s companion found at last.
They knew they would always remain together,
Make a family, children around the house crying, laughing,
Toys scattered in every room; and
So it was, has been, will remain.
Toby’s 4th fighter wing flies from the carrier Odyssey,
Based near Turkey, Mid-east duty its mission.
Daily flights into Iraq are the new routine, high
Altitude flight first, then low attack to fire missiles,
Batter Saddam’s Republican Guard, who
Prepare for General Tommy Frank’s Marines.
Until the order comes, Toby stays in holding pattern,
Sipping Air Force lemonade from his helmet straw.
Two hour’s fuel left, steady at three-quarters full,
Massive Pratt and Whitney engines gulp high-octane
Belching out hot wind at 200,000 pounds of thrust.
Six Hellfire missiles sit under wing, silent but deadly.
On the ground, just yards from dug-in Iraqi troops,
Samir Aljub, his wife Ansara and two daughters sit
Huddled together in their mud brick home, eating
Rice, dried meat, tea and sugar cookies, almost
The last of their provisions stored before the war. They
Sit by a lone candle, afraid more light will attract notice.
Samir works by day, hauling sacks of flour,
All types, not just wheat, but lentil, chickpea, too.
The work is hard, but steady, except for the dust
Which fills his nose and makes him cough at night.
He enjoys his friends, his boss is a kind man,
He makes enough to feed and clothe his family.
No lover of Saddam, Samir is not political.
His wife Ansara stays at home, tends to the girls,
Prepares meals, cleans house, washes clothes.
Tuesdays, she meets with friends for tea and cookies,
The older children looking after the younger while
The women chatter, gossip, trade stories and laugh.
Samir and Ansara’s fathers, bricklayers, worked together,
Thought their two children would be well matched,
Samir’s willingness to work, Ansara’s devotion to home.
Married at 16, they settled down in Hilla on the Tigris,
Held off on having children till 25, then money saved
They had two girls, Samir’s pride and joy.
Samir, now 36, hopes his daughters will find good husbands
Devout, but not fanatic, he prays each day to Allah,
Forehead to the ground in reverence and reflection.
Turned to Mecca, he gives thanks to Allah, reciting
The holy scripture for guidance and protection, he
Offers praise for his life, his family and his future.
Samir hears the rumble of approaching
Such sounds have been frequent these past weeks.
The army stationed nearby promises protection
But Samir fears the opposite is true. His
Family in his arms, he sits. They pray and hug
As the drone of aircraft becomes a roar.
At 12,000 feet Toby initiates his target software,
A digital 3-D map illuminates his path in green.
The target is predetermined by mission specialists who
In a darkened room in Qatar, screens flickering
Plot coordinates and transmit them to Toby’s craft
While he sits back and lets the chariot fly itself.
His air speed drops to 600 miles per hour, still fast
But to him it feels like crawling. He is impatient.
At 10,000 feet he fires his first missile, a bright streak
Accelerating to 1,800 miles an hour. It
Follows its guided path to his first target, explodes
An Iraqi tank - flames rise, men run screaming.
Toby sets himself for another run, command instructions:
A bunker to the rear, near residential structures.
Intelligence indicates some risk of civilian casualties
But concludes that there’s no choice,
Collateral damage is a calculated cost of war.
His target chosen and locked in, Toby awaits his signal.
At 0430 hours he releases Hellfire two.
Designed by General Dynamics, it’s aptly named.
Built to explode but also burn intensely, melt armor,
Molten copper and phosphorus fuel its searing flames,
It feeds on matter of all kinds, earth, air and water,
Hellfire is just that, a flesh-consuming demon.
The missile overshoots its target by thirteen yards;
Not bad, considering the instructions from Qatar.
But it’s enough to send it past the field of battle
Smack down on Samir’s home, family within.
The walls collapse in a massive concussion
The phosphorus begins to burn.
Samir, his wife, and children are already dead.
Allah has answered their merciful prayers
By sparing them the agony of burning flesh.
Body fat adds to the inferno; within
Twenty minutes time the four sweet
Mortals disappear completely.
Well aloft, Toby knows not who he’s killed,
Makes three more efficient runs, dispensing missiles,
Notes that his fuel has dropped to one-fourth full, time
To head home to the Odyssey, get four hours rest,
Send an email to Charlene, tell her to hug the girls.
He sips his lemonade and banks west.