My grandfather swore his life
to protecting those weaker than he is.
For him, with his broad shoulders
and arms strong enough to
swing me around, that must be
everyone.

When he left for work at night, his belt
strung with the tools of his trade
(radio, pepper spray, gun holster,
and other leather boxes
full of curiosity), he pulled me
into bear hugs that left my stomach stinging
with the pressure of his promise.
He came back without the pleats
at the front of his pant legs,
and sometimes with bruises and smudges
around his world-weary eyes, but
to me the scent of sweat is the
same as the scent of honor.

I learned to shoot from him, when I was
barely taller than the firearm he chose.
My ears rang that day, but
I learned to fear and trust him;
I never saw him miss.

My grandfather sometimes flew
over unreckoned distances
to protect even outside of our hometown.
Once, I went with him to the base
and the men there greeted him with
salutes and smiles. One of them
told me he'd heard things
about me. I didn't understand
why a hero would tell stories
about his middle granddaughter,
but I grinned back at him and charmed.

He has notoriously bad taste
in women. If he loved a woman,
I could be sure I would not like her.
I never told him, though, because
there is enough division in his life
without my help.

He left again yesterday, back to the same
place for another round. This was his
fifth tour, I think.
His job was to guard men and supplies,
to protect what our nation holds dear.

My grandfather swore his life
to protecting those weaker than he is,
like me. He would give it,
if he had to do so, but
I pray every night
that he does not.