The Heart of the American Soldier by William R. Ablan

The Heart of the American Soldier

There’s some serious fringe benefits to getting my own closet.

Before, trying to get into that closet was taking your life into your hands. I had hundreds of pictures stashed in there but they might as well have been on the Moon. The only way I as getting most of them out was through a lot of hard work.

As part of my digitizing project, I am now able to take all the many pictures I took in the military and do something with them.

One of the many pictures I found is this one.

It shows an American Infantryman I encountered. He was standing on a berm in in Iraq, maintaining a watch. I liked the pose and took the picture.

The American Fighting Soldier, miles from Home

Looking at it now, after thirty years from the day I took it, and comparing it to the thousands of other pictures I’ve taken, I have to admit that it was one of the best pictures I ever took. I didn’t have to play any games in the darkroom to get it the way it looked.

When I pulled it out, I was struck that it shows the heart of a warrior. Someone who’s been called far from home, away from friends and family, and doing a job few others would even consider doing.

From the snows of Valley Forge to the battlefield at Gettysburg. From the American West to San Juan Hill and to the muddy trenches of France, men and soon, women, answered the call. People, some of us we were lucky to have known, waded onto the beaches of Sicily and France or fought across flea speck sized islands in the Pacific. Others froze in the stalemate called Korea, while their sons lived and fought in the green hell called Vietnam.

Today, our sons and daughters fight in the sands of the Middle East or the rocky hills of Afghanistan.

Like those of the past, many come back missing a part of themselves. They come back changed. They find themselves being round pegs that no longer fit into the square holes we expect them to. Many dust themselves off and go on to build the best life they can.

And others never came back. Some are buried beneath the waves in what remains of their ships, sailors on an eternal patrol. Others occupy a patch of ground in a distant land, away forever from their families. Some are still out, listed simply as Missing in Action, their fates presumed but still unknown.

But some who die, do come back, and are buried in cemeteries across our country. A flag is on their coffin, and it’s folded by an honor guard and presented to a weeping parent or spouse. Their coffins are lowered into the ground and a rifle salute is fired over them. Then there’s a long sad song, and one of our own disappears into the earth.

Where do the men and women who hold the line come from? They come from our farms, towns, and streets. They’re the girl next door, or the boy down the street who played basketball. They’re our sons and daughters. Our grandchildren. They’re someone’s father or mother. They’re the old man on a cane wearing a WW II vet hat, or the young man in college considering joining the VFW.

They’re the American fighting Soldier, Airman, Sailor, or Marine.

They’ve been criticized, ran down, labeled, neglected, spat on, cheered, slapped on the back, and cried over.

And I thank God for each and everyone of them that answered the call and I ask His blessing on them.

God bless the American Servicemember. Keep them safe. And bring each of them home.

William R. Ablan is the penname of Richard L. Muniz. His website.

He’s also shared stories on Our American Stories. Here’s twelve minutes called “We Live Through History Without Even Realizing It.”


  1. I agree with you, Joy. The man knows the heart of a soldier and he gives some of us that rare glimpse.

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