I’m surrounded by veterans and active duty service members; a brother, two cousins, two uncles, and two grandfathers who served around the time of the Korean War. I’ve never taken the military’s job lightly because of this. But I’ve always had a sort of a fascination with the history surrounding the World Wars. When I was eleven years old, my poem, “It Is War,” (a piece of prose I wrote focusing on WW1) was chosen to appear in the local newspaper. It’s hard to shake off the fact that so many men and women died unnoticed on and in various fields, woods, islands, and ships. Memorial Day is to remember the forgotten and to honor those left behind.
The smells of sweat, dust, blood and
gunpowder fill the air.
Moans of dying soldiers come from
The outbursts of bombs and the quick-fire
of the machine guns are far from music to
It is war.
A bomb erupts, quite near and an
agonizing scream of pain is heard,
but goes unheeded. A new body lay in
No Man’s land.
The parapets lay limp and tangled,
looking as downcast as we are.
The sky reflects our mood.
It is war.
The tight-fitting trenches hold us in like
We duck into tunnels, retreating into another
filthy cut in the ground.
An officer barks orders roughly to his men,
and they scurry away, not daring to
It is war.
One last heart-gripping bomb is heard in
the distance, and across that desolate French
cornfield, a white flag is seen.
The roar of victory in our trenches is
deafening, handshakes and congratulations
on every side, hats are thrown up, and countless
flags appear everywhere. The battle is won.
This is victory.
Some closing thoughts…
As I unearthed this poem from several years of dormancy and typed it over again, a few things pop up; oh, that doesn’t sound right. Ay! Should’ve cut that. Um? Maybe different word choice there? But I also see under the surface…
a medic, dragging a wounded soldier to shelter…
a family, sans a beloved member…
raindrops, solemnly splashing on camouflaged helmets…
a sergeant, his jaw firmly set in determination…
a cloth, bedraggled on the point of a bayonet on the horizon…
tears, mingling with dirt, sweat, and grease…
Too often we take for granted troops here and overseas. Memorial Day should not be one day out of 365 that we put up our flags and honor fallen service members. Too many men and women were lost and their sacrifice too great to go about our business every other day. America isn’t just the land of the free and the home of the brave… it’s “the land of the free—because of the brave.”