Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | May 25, 2012

For Memorial Day, A Poem called ” The Wall”

This is the poem that marked the resurrection of my writing.


   The Wall

for the Vietnam Veterans of America

I. Roll Call

Arrayed in perfect ranks and files,

row on row,

gleaming metal and polished black,

sharp straight edges cutting the wind,

they stand

in static silent formation.

Only their nameplates speak…

a voiceless babble of American families,

no other speaks, or spoke, for them.

Soldiers should not make their own monuments

Away from this place of silence,

this place of unheard voices,

(where a limp flower hangs,

pushed into a crevice of the black stone),

the nation erected proper monuments of heroism:

sinewy white marble demigods with laurels;

or helmeted bronze men, thrusting a flagpole upright.

These recall brass band parades,

bright red roses, gleefully flung into city streets

beneath gleaming, triumphant boots; V-Day kisses, tears of victory, of joy;

these, …in memoriam…in appreciation… are proper.

These tell sufficient truth.

Soldiers should not make their own monuments

II. Personnel Files

Teachers filled their childish ears

with the rattle of musketry,

— Valley Forge, San Juan Hill,

and, yes, Antietam, Gettysburg, Atlanta;

they believed.

Believed nostalgic fathers, wistful uncles;

— grand visions of “Over the top…,” “Over There;”

Pearl Harbor infamy;

steaming “Sands of Iwo Jima” Okinawa’s steel typhoon;

—Inchon landings and ”The Bridges at Toko-Ri.“

Victory, heroism, glory.

“Glory, glory, hallelujah…” they believed

in “…Duty, honor, country;”

with the “Faith of Our Fathers,”

and on silver “Paths of Glory,”

blazed into thousands of sunsets;

…on insubstantial contrails,

“Blowing in the Wind” evaporating in the heat,

leaving no track home.

III. Separation

Believing, they went…

then losing belief,


– or just endured,

and changed.

Some died, most returned;

many to the silent muster of this wall;

more to await honors

from fathers who could not hear,

and children who would not listen;

making their own hollow parades in shabby fatigues,

down almost-empty streets.

These have made their own monument,

a prostrate memorial in black stone.

 Soldiers should not make their own monuments


  1. Thank you from a Vietnam Vet. Thank you Thomas!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Rich. Have a great weekend. Message me about your Vietnam unit.

  2. Beautifully powerful words, Thomas.

    Thanks for sharing them. And thanks for your service.

    • Thanks so much for your kind comments. I’m happy to know the poem touched you.

  3. Tom, this poem says so much to my heart. I visited the Wall once and understood why my Doc was so moved. He ended back in hospital after he visited. It touches on so many levels, some I didn’t even know I had. I thank you.

    • Thank you, Joy. This is the one that opened the gates. I began writing again with this.

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