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To Chicago, The Eagle

by Elizabeth Wurz

Today, I found your paper
“Giving Back: Volunteering at the Columbus Boys and Girls Club,”
and I Googled your name. Mark Abdul Shaheer Obituary
was the first result. After two tours in Iraq,
winning, as part of “Team Wolfpack,”
the Eagle Challenge at Forward Operating Base Hammer,
taking courses at Columbus State,
marrying, and becoming a father,
you died on June 11
at your residence.

I called you Chicago—
the name on your papers: “I am
from the substandard housing projects
in the belly of Chicago, Illinois.” You wrote,
“When a volunteer spends time with a child
and teaches him the ABC’s, the volunteer earns
a young person’s trust and respect.” I shared
your service-learning paper as an example
when I gave a teaching demonstration,
and I landed this job.

As Spc. Mark Shaheer,
you transformed from Crow to Eagle
while having your rucksack inventoried,
running a mile with your rifle,
disassembling and assembling it,
marching four miles, making radio checks,
and treating casualties.

My search results included Donations Asked
for Deceased CSU Student and Soldier.

Sixteen months ago, I could have
helped with and attended your funeral.
In a Defense.gov article, I read
a quote from your Battalion Commander:
“You are the reason for this battalion’s success,
and for that I thank you.” He presented brass belt buckles
to your group of Eagles: “Other soldiers will ask you
where you earned it.”

On the buckle,
“203rd Brigade Support Battalion,
Eagle Challenge,
Support and Defend,
3rd Infantry Division”
wraps around an eagle’s head.

One of your fellow Eagles said,
“For a few moments today, I forgot
I was in Iraq.” One of the contest’s requirements
was maintaining a positive attitude.

To the children at the Club,
you read What Was I Scared Of.
You wrote, “I asked the kids to listen to the rhythm of the story,
and I told them it was trochaic tetrameter.
Three kids who stood out
because of their attitudes. I sat down
and talked about their disruptive behavior’s
effect on others. One boy asked about my belt buckle.
I told him about the Eagles—how it pays
to remain positive and focused
as he moves through life.”

With “Everyone’s small contribution
adds up to a big impact,”
you closed the paper.

Dr. Elizabeth Wurz is an Assistant Professor of English at the College of Coastal Georgia, where several of her students serve, or have served, in the military. Her spouse, siblings, parent, and grandparent are veterans. Her poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Rattle, the Southeast Review, the GSU Review, and the GLR Worldwide.

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