you were when you enlisted and deployed,
I watched reruns of the 1965 TV drama Branded,
alongside my father, a WWII Vet.
Every week during the opening credits,
army cavalry captain Jason McCord, accused
of cowardice, is publicly humiliated, dishonorably
dismissed from the military, epaulets torn
from his uniform, saber broken.
A snare drum palpitates, the theme song swells,
… they said he ran away.
Turns out General James Reed, McCord’s superior,
took leave of his senses when confronted in battle.
Men died. In a last ditch effort, McCord takes action
meant to sway the commander but ends up
severely beaten, bloodied, nearly dead.
But hey, somebody had to take the fall
for the whole debacle, you feel me?
A few episodes in, a reporter gets wind of others
who had questioned the General’s mental state,
igniting debate over motivations of higher ups.
For the sake of really great journalism, I will add
the self-aggrandized politician who calls
for McCord’s execution from the stump.
My father would curse, yell at the television.
McCord’s barely more then a boy he’d say,
having been so himself when he returned
from the Philippines, a metal plate in his head,
admitting to have shit himself more then once.
He wore dark circles under his eyes
and plead guilty every single day.
© Kari Gunter-Seymour