Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rocket Men

The first sound was a harsh, overpowering rumble, like a bomb exploding, but it was so much closer than normal. My brain was working overtime trying to comprehend why I was still breathing. A split second later, as the noise continued and began to fade, I thought for a second that perhaps it had only been a jet going supersonic. My mind mulled that idea over for a moment and then discarded it- there had been no "crack" as there always is when a plane breaks the sound barrier. It must have been a rocket- ours or theirs? I couldn't tell. The mystery was solved just four or five heartbeats beyond its beginning: one of the sergeants who was in the initial invasion of Iraq sat up in his bunk and said "I know that sound! It's been a long time since I've heard an MLRS fire."

MLRS. Multiple Launch Rocket System. The crown jewel of American artillery. Capable of firing a rocket well over twenty miles and dropping its destructive payload, it's nothing you want to be on the receiving end of.

I'd never had a chance to see one of these systems in action, and I've had a fascination since childhood of rockets and things that go "boom", so I headed out of the tent to see if I could spot another launch. I heard another rocket launch and rise as I walked to the door. Somehow, it seemed quieter now that I knew what it was. I stood outside and watched for awhile underneath the cool air and the moon shining through a patchwork of clouds. Off in the distance I see a bright pinpoint of amber light. For the briefest of moments, I pass it off as a parachute illumination flare. The fact that the flare is moving upwards, and fast, strikes me at the exact instant as the sound. The now-familiar roar surrounds me, and I watch as the pinpoint widens and darts into the sky, piercing through the clouds and leaving only a billowing trail in its wake.
I laugh a little to myself and remembered the first time I stood and watched one of my model rockets climb with dizzying speed into the sky. The thought that this one is no toy tempers my mood, and I realize that someones bad night just got a whole lot worse.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant piece of writing Teflon Don. Keep it up. Stay as safe as you can.