“It is foolish and Wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.” General George S. Patton Jr.
Growing up in Southern West Virginia, we called it Decoration Day. It was a time for remembering those lost to war and for large family reunions at Grandpa’s house. These family gatherings were filled with World War II and Korean War Veterans, my Dad and Uncles among them. For me, barely an advanced toddler, it was all about seeing my cousins and eating potato salad and banana pudding.
The origins of the day remembering American casualties of war is debatable. Several places claim the honor and President Johnson declared it began in Waterloo, New York. Although not a declared holiday, the roots of the remembrance are traced to widows and families of Civil War dead, both Union and Confederate, who gathered in Spring to decorate the graves of those lost in the war. Over the years, it became Memorial Day and an official government holiday to honor not only those lost in war, but all who gave their lives in military service to the country. As General Patton said, “we should thank God” for each and every one of those who served and sacrificed and importantly passed to us the torch of freedom,
Then I heard the voice of the Lord Saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here Am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 (NIV)
I’m not a poet, unless you consider some of the Jody cadences I used as a Drill Sergeant. During my last few years of service, I was at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. About a ten-minute walk from my house on Fort Myer was the Tomb of the Unkowns in Arlington National Cemetery. It was early, the sun not up for long and flickering through the trees. A slight breeze blowing. A light dew covered the green fields. It was the most serene, peaceful, and inspirational place I’ve ever been. When I returned home, I tried to capture my feelings in a poem. Indulge me my first and only attempt at poetry.
Fields of Heroes
At my back is the colonnade of the Mansion Lee,
Sprawling before me, a free nation’s capital I see.
Just below this dwelling high
Beneath an eternal flame a president and his family lie.
It’s a fitting place for a president to be
Surrounded by the hero spirits of the free.
Not so far from this majestic home,
In Napoleonic alignment stand many rows of stone
Bearing a simple inscription, Union Soldier – Unknown.
Heroes of the free who never made it home.
A fitting place for these souls to rest
Guardians still of this world’s best.
A horse drawn caisson passes by
The sounding of Taps tears the eye.
With the blast of guns twenty-one
To these fields of honor another hero comes.
It’s a fitting place for an eternal home
Surrounded by brothers and sisters of arms.
Marble and granite stand in contrast to green sod
Honoring those known but to their God.
A guard of honor walks precise
Ever present sun or ice.
It’s fitting homage to the souls
Of these unknown heroes who gave all.
Twenty-one steps this guard of honor takes
In twenty-one seconds his journey he makes.
For twenty-one seconds he will pause,
Honoring those who had a cause.
Quiet and peaceful are these fields of green
A spiritual place, calm, serene.
And as I feel their cooling breeze the spirits know
Humbly I stand midst fields of heroes.
May God bless and embrace the men and women who sacrificed for us. Let us take the torch of freedom they passed to us and keep it burning brightly.
© 2019 J. D. Pendry, All Rights Reserved