As I paused at the war memo­r­i­al
And pon­dered how it hon­ored the dead,
A group of young peo­ple came up to me
I bare­ly caught what one of them said.

“Are you a vet­er­an?” one qui­et­ly asked,
Lest too loud a voice might dis­turb
Those souls revered here in gran­ite writ,
The bat­tles fought, the dead interred.

I slow­ly turned to see upturned faces
With inquir­ing eyes and bash­ful glances,
As they wait­ed for some sage response,
What could I say? What could I answer?

For I knew that my brief time in ser­vice
Placed me not amongst the brave remem­bered,
Nor gave me cred­it in their pres­ence,
This fall-fore­telling mild September.

My momen­tary silence must have revealed
The thoughts that swirled with­in my mind,
As the mus­ing crowds passed to and fro,
And prop­er words were hard to find.

At last I framed words care­ful­ly cho­sen,
“Yes, I’m a vet­er­an,” was my reply,
Though the response was fraught with sad­ness
“But not like those who around us lie.”

“For I nev­er saw the hell they saw,
Nor wit­nessed good and close friends die.
I nev­er raised a gun in anger,
Never heard the bul­lets fly.

I only did what was my duty.
Marched and drilled and prac­ticed war.
I served my time and went home glad­ly
But under­stand what they bat­tled for.”

“Oh, that’s alright, sir.” one youth opined.
“You’re a vet­er­an, that’s all that mat­ters.
And we thank you for your ser­vice.”
As they turned and left, ‘midst child­ish pratter.

Left alone, in silent rever­ie,
I won­der what these chil­dren thought
Of me and here this qui­et place
Dedicated to a host of bat­tles fought.

But as for me, I under­stand
That this memo­r­i­al is more than stone.
It’s remem­brance of those who gave their all
On dis­tant shores, away from home.

In far off lands with odd-sound­ing names,
In fear-filled skies of smoke and flame,
On dan­ger­ous waters full of death,
To win a war.  It was no game.

I under­stand what this all sig­ni­fies,
That man’s devo­tion is a high call­ing,
And can­not be so light­ly tak­en
When all around, com­rades are falling.

I shall come again some sum­mer day,
Or per­haps in winter’s pris­tine snow.
And pay my last respects once more,
And won­der if more youth will show.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.