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Feathers...Legacy of Ducks

By Dr Mike Colson

I stand before you all today covered in feathers. Some of the feathers stick to me while others lie about, shift in the wind, and occasionally stick in the corners of my mouth. And they are not just any kind of feather. These are duck feathers…the worst kind.

You may have heard of this phenomenon. Guys will tell you straight up – normally in a loud and vigorous way – that if something looks like, walks like, and talks like a duck (pause for emphasis), then a duck it is. Fellow combat bubba’s…ducks is what we got.

Let me explain.

These ducks can be heard almost any day of the week. One duck shouted out “Bring it on” and they did – with disasterous results for warriors and innocents. Whole flocks of ducks ask for party line voting and thereby stifle conversation (Democracy be damned!) on the merits of fighting a complicated and protracted war. And before you get me wrong, being a duck man is an equal opportunity game. Ducks are found on all fronts, uttering from an equal butt opposite position wonderfully sound statements like “I wouldn’t have voted if I knew now what I knew then” – or – “We can’t afford to fight other peoples conflicts.”

For my part, I sit uneasily in a slightly torn foldout chair outside this political aviary – I’ll call it the “The Duck Inn” after a little restaurant in Stanwood, Washington - wondering why more people aren’t concerned about increasing levels of duck droppings. The anger I feel comes later when I remember that all the quacks I hear quacking never took incoming, fired a weapon, deployed on dangerous roads, or kept a personal danger beam burning night and day. Of course, that doesn’t stop the quacks or squawks in the birdcage.

Our Vietnam era brothers and sisters are more experienced in this phenomenon. Long ago they figured out that these ducks have no desire to taste privation or fear, experience patriotism and folly in full measure, or link friend with trauma. Ducks have a way of being emboldened by ignorance and thereby trotting out all manner of crap…none of which speaks for me one bit.

Ducks and politics seem to go hand in hand. That is a historical reality. But I would like to think that what troubles me most about ducks comes from my having PTSD as a companion and bedmate. Which means on the one hand I am a raging “serve this nation” fanatic – and in an instant – am thrown into a depressive lull of lost innocence. When I hear the ducks speak I want to raise the flag even if the stars and stripes wave over market carnage, road bombsites, and boots arranged in neat rows. I want to kick and cry…and live…and die. And every clarion call played for another soldier lost puts my ass back in my folding chair wondering why I can’t engage in the democratic process…and run my own beliefs up the flagpole.

Combat guys don’t swagger like some of the ducks I’ve seen. But in the cloud that we call trauma remains the warrior. We know of what we speak. Having to prove another deficient, showing off personal intellect, or grandstanding are not our ways. Yet, we can tell it like it is. We not only make good arguments – about ducks and whatever – but we can be the argument. We live, breath, adapt, and – by God - find our way even when the maps we were issued prove limited. And finally, no combat guy I know would even go prancing around in feathers!