On Verse and Veterans

flag

The white marble sat frozen, cold.  Green grass grew evenly around straight rows of precise lines of stone. They had names, and dates etched and engraved.  But the stories were missing.  Marked somewhere else; maybe in the kitchen of his mom, broken heart of a wife, a forgotten friend left waiting.  I wondered if the straight rows and meticulous care echoed enough remorse for the debt.  I walked, and in silence the sun reddened my cheeks.  The smiles settled on faces of other visitors, but only subtly inched up toward eyes.  I remember my friends who lived in Washington D.C. telling me they loved Arlington.  In fact, Sunday walks and time alone often accompanied them to this cemetery. The cemetery alive with people.

 

I have no stories about veterans.  I have no written record of a war fought, survived, destroyed, or won. I have not had to barter, beg, reach, stretch or pray for safe returns.  I have not had a soldier return a stranger and struggle to reconcile lives.

 

I have seen pictures of my grandpa in uniform, and have heard his daughter say he would not speak of days across the ocean. He left us no stories, she would say.  I have watched on TV, like you, the returns and departures, a tidal wave of fatigues enter and leave bases and planes with tears, kisses, smiles.

 

And I always wonder what they’re thinking. Is it worth it? Do they feel pride?  The sacrifice and commitment, wins and losses are entangled in the personal stories.  From the mouths of soldiers.  How do they tell their stories?  Can words work?  I find it interesting that many soldiers from WWI and WWII used poetry.  Prose in short phrases to try and connect meaning.  To ground shards and fragments to roots.

 

Soldiers like Rupert Brooke.  He was a soldier in WWI and died of dysentery on a ship in 1915. His poem is known as one of the most famous to come out of WWI.

 

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s a some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s breathing English air

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

What do you think of Brooke’s words?  How has your life been personally affected by wars, or soldiers’, sacrifices?  How do you show gratitude for others’ dedication? 

 

About Jennie L

(Prose Board) is from Salt Lake. Teaching high school English has taught her many things, including how to sing the parts of speech, and break up hall fights, but perhaps most important, spending her days with words and writing continually reinforces their power. Give her a beach, some dark chocolate, friends and family and she'll be one happy girl.

5 thoughts on “On Verse and Veterans

  1. Brooke wrote that poem in the heady days of 1914 before the horrors of The Great War were known, when one might still dream that there was in that war a reason for all the dying. Three years later May Herschel-Clark wrote a response:

    If you should die, think only this of me
    In that still quietness where is space for thought,
    Where parting, loss and bloodshed shall not be,
    And men may rest themselves and dream of nought:
    That in some place a mystic mile away
    One whom you loved has drained the bitter cup
    Till there is nought to drink; has faced the day
    Once more, and now, has raised the standard up.

    And think, my son, with eyes grown clear and dry
    She lives as though for ever in your sight,
    Loving the things you loved, with heart aglow
    For country, honour, truth, traditions high,
    —Proud that you paid their price. (And if some night
    Her heart should break—well, lad, you will not know.)

  2. I was in the Royal Australian Navy as an 18 year old, and the captain of my Cadet Squadron was a New Zealand Army officer (who was 21). He was a fantastic leader, even in training, and died as part of a UN Peacekeeping Mission. His death was grieved by many, and brought the reality of sacrificing for country to a much more personal level.

    I have a great-great-uncle who served and died in WW1 in France, and nobody from my family has ever visited his grave. I plan on doing so myself, as a mark of respect.

    War poetry is terrible, wonderful art, and precious.

  3. It is nice to see recognition on Segullah of the sacrifices made by our military and their families, I hope it will become a tradition on Veteran’s Day. I have served as a wife of a solider in the Army National Guard for 11 years and it has been a refiner’s fire as our lives will never be the same. We are bruised, battered and weary, and sometimes have been broken. Most of us cannot realize the hellish trials military families may endure, both at war and on the home front. When my husband was deployed my testimony and the love of family and friends kept me sane. It enabled me to endure, in answers to many prayers for relief. But there were also far more dark dark days I felt like the world was on my shoulders and only prayer kept me from faltering when others ignored my needs. If you really appreciate the sacrifices the military families make, show it. Teach your children about the flag and what it means, about our great country, help them to serve veterans-there are many that are homeless, alone, and forgotten. Tell the veterans you meet that you appreciate them. It may feel awkward or strange, but it will mean more than you can ever know. When you know someone appreciates your sacrifice, it is a little easier to keep shouldering the hidden sorrow and wounds it has brought.

  4. I have been in the Air Force, both as active duty and now as civil service, since 1988. I count myself fortunate that nobody I know personally has died in a war zone. However, I am sobered as a member of my unit came home today wounded from injuries suffered in Afghanistan.

Comments are closed.