Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | November 9, 2012

For Veteran’s Day

This is the first poem for Veteran’s Day.   This one is especially for Vietnam Veterans.  The Wall was paid for, not out of government funding, but from veteran’s organizations.  The poem tracks a soldier from his earliest days to his return to America.

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,
fought
– 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

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Responses

  1. Thomas, what can I say… But thank you. Beautiful poem, beautiful tribute.
    Thank you for your service.

    • There is one for today, the 10th. I’ve had computer difficulties that have kept me away from the Internet.

  2. There it is.

  3. Thanks again, Thomas for this beautiful tribute. It bears repeating.

  4. Reblogged this on Rich Weatherly – Author and commented:
    A fitting tribute to Vietnam Veteran’s Day by my friend and former Special Forces officer, Thomas Drinkard.


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