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.