If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
I suppose that the reason you area reading more and more of the politics of the GWOT here than before is that it is a function of where we are in the deployment cycle. Our time remaining here is in the single digits now and I think it is normal that when you reach a juncture such as this, you cast a retrospective glance at the things you have both accomplished and endured.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
Looking back down the path that I have followed over this past year and remembering the places that journey has taken me and people I have met there, it causes the emotions to run deep. I see monumental challenges and Herculean achievements; I see pain and devastation along with empathy and sacrifice. I see victories in the eyes of a child, and losses in a flag covered casket.
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
More than that though, I see heroes and patriots. Volunteers all, brought together from all walks of life for any manner of reason for this common purpose. Together they have achieved accomplishments of epic proportions for a noble and righteous cause only to be slighted by uninformed, self-important misanthropes who have apparently been deprived, or deprived themselves, of the intellectual capacity necessary to grasp the elusive concept of selfless sacrifice.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
I do feel a bit of pity for those that will revile our involvement in this conflict for many years to come, particularly those who have been able to view it from a detached position of ignorance solely through the media. This pity is born out of the knowledge that after years of standing firm on their misinformed beliefs, they will one day awaken to the knowledge that their personal values and convictions never demanded the sacrifice of body and soul for something larger than their own personal well-being. Though reviled by some now, my comrades and I will pass the remainder of our days with the peace of knowing that when our nation cried out, we were there while others will always wonder of the ability to risk all they have and all they are for an ideal larger than themselves.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
The pity for these people will take a back seat though to the empathy I feel for those that will follow me here. I will empathize with their feelings of isolation and abandonment; with their desperate longings for family and home; with their cursing of the seemingly interminable passing of time; and with their overarching sense of duty which will not allow the mission to fail.
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
I also know that I will rejoice with them as they approach the place I currently occupy, with their mission completed and both reunifications and celebrations days and hours away. I will remember the satisfaction they will feel for their accomplishments, secure in their knowledge that they have done all that was asked of them, appreciated or not; a satisfaction formed from sacrifice that can be neither inflated by compliment nor diminished by disparagement
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
From where I stand now, these are the things that I see looking both forward and back down the road that I travel, but for today it is enough to know of you few who will read this and say “Well done Soldier, it’s time to come home.”
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!