They marched us to the middle
of nowhere, sweat running down
our backs, our olive drab uniforms
now three shades darker.
They handed us a rifle, an M-16
they told us in class, with a 5.56
round, it would tumble after
it hit its target, good for killing.
We lay on the ground, shouldered
the weapon, aimed it at the
target, a bottomless torso and as
instructed, gently pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened, which is what
the Air Force wanted this day
for we were here to know our gun
to befriend it, to cradle it.
Another day we would come back
to the range, take our weapon, assume
the firing position and hopefully watch
the round tear a hole in the target.
And on this day, our sergeant said
we had finally become warriors, then
he quickly took the weapon away,
never for most of us, to be touched again.
First Published in Half Hour To Kill, August 2022