• tab “Are you happy?” they say. They smile. They touch your mind with a thought you’re hesitant to answer, because you had never thought to ever wonder whether or not you were happy.
    tab They repeat: Are you happy?
    tab It echoes, resonates like violins playing in an empty room. It reverberates in the walls. Minds are still churning with the idea, even though the words have now faded.
    tab But they stare watching, eyes like moons, hidden by fire—darkness filled without night. The glimmer of your reflection. They wear hats, but they aren’t hats. They wear badges, but they aren’t badges they have won with integrity. They wear ash on their face and dark grey hair from stress and harsh labor.
    tab They wear the face of tired souls, ones that never sleep at the stroke of dawn because when the sun rises, they’re lives are questionable things.
    tab Things. That’s what they are to us. Things of labor that fight. Things to do the business of keeping life in existence. We call them casualties.
    tab We call them things without calling them things. We brush them off as if God had touched your shoulder, and you nudge Him off with the total disrespect of your ethics.
    tab We call them Our Soldiers, but we’ve never met them.
    tab I begin to ponder: Am I worthless? Is America hopeless? Why am I fighting for a country—for people who could be just as sinful as those we fight against?
    tab That’s why, when they ask if I truly am happy, I don’t respond with a smile and sureness that most would. Because I’m not sure. And what difference does it make if one is to rebel against all the others because of a difference of emotion? I fight, but I’m not rewarded. I live, but I live for the breaths of others—others who I don’t know, can’t really care for, and wouldn’t cry for when they passed on.
    tab Virtue becomes a thing. Humanity becomes a thing. Everything is just another thing, a figment, another word.
    tab It’s a tragedy. But it’s a good one, and we will learn from it.
    tab We walk with heads high. We fall heads first.
    tab We say we fight for love, vengeance, justice, for the fun of the battlefield. But when the battered bodies of hopeless people scatter the floor, you’re there without choice. It is not happiness that makes us patriotic—not spirit, not motivation, not the want for freedom.
    In the warzone, I become expendable.
    tab I become worthless.
    tab “Are you happy?” they repeat, clueless and oblivious, but also happily.
    tab And I say: Why would you ask that?
    tab The men and women state: You’re smiling. The War is over. Freedom, peace, justice, liberty—you saved us.
    tab My face frowns.
    tab I say, eyes fading away to specks of shimmering black: It wasn’t me who saved you. It was pure chance.