Honoring the Military
Outside the VA Clinic
Mostly men in somber colors
cluster along the covered walkway,
sitting or standing near the white
metal benches that line one side
of the cement VA Building.
The absence of cigarette smoke
drifting from the green "smoking area"
allows the scent of roses
that grow groomed on the other side
to dominate the Spring air.
There is a cacophony of laughter,
a cough and bass and tenor voices
that drawl in conversation.
A jacketed, sad-eyed PTSD Dog
hugs the leg of his young master
whose hand absently strokes a silky ear.
Bob sits a little taller in his chair,
sporting his Korean War cap,
as I wheel him to the entry door
and a Viet Nam vet, opens it for us.
The savory, sweet taste of camaraderie
is extended to each newcomer
in a nod, a hand, or a word.
Brothers born of war.
~~Judi Van Gorder
May is National Military Month and will end with Memorial Day, honoring our fallen soldiers. The photo above is of two brothers, my Uncles, an infantry man and a fighter pilot, with a broken neck from being shot down, having come home from World War II. Both brothers lived to the age of 95. Images of proud military men and women, dressed in uniform spark pride in me even when I don't know who they are. The honor and glory inspired by the defense of one's national flag is a theme of millions of poems and stories from the beginning of literature in almost every culture. Of course we know that the honor and glory of military prowess doesn't shine as brightly in the foxhole, from under an overturned Humvie or from a POW camp. But the thing that seems to thread through it all, is the bond these military men and women form with each other. We can honor our military with praise and thanks, we can also honor our military by recognizing the sacrifice, pain and horror of war and doing our utmost to promote peace.
Dulce et Decorum est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
~~~ Wilfred Owen
Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace:
Let's honor our military,
The men and women who serve,
Whose dedication to our country
Does not falter, halt or swerve.
Let's respect them for their courage;
They're ready to do what's right
To keep America safe,
So we can sleep better at night.
Let's support and defend our soldiers,
Whose hardships are brutal and cruel,
Whose discipline we can't imagine,
Who follow each order and rule.
Here's to those who choose to be warriors
And their helpers good and true;
They're fighting for American values;
They're fighting for me and you.
If you have a military story to tell, I would love to read it. Happy writing. ~~ Judi
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