Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2021

Attack

By Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow’ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to, meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

Memorial Day 2019

IV: The Dead  (1914)

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night.

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

 

Memorial Day 2018

Marching Men

Under the level winter sky
I saw a thousand Christs go by.
They sang an idle song and free
As they went up to Calvary.

Careless of eye and coarse of lip,
They marched in holiest fellowship.
That heaven might heal the world, they gave
Their earth-born dreams to deck the grave.

With souls unpurged and steadfast breath
They supped the sacrament of death.
And for each one, far off, apart,
Seven swords have rent a woman’s heart.

Marjorie Pickthall (1883-1922)

Memorial Day 2017

Wait For Me

to Valentina Serova

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait with all you’ve got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer’s hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don’t arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I’m alive.

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend –
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!

Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
“What a bit of luck!” they’ll say,
Those that would not  wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply – you knew how to wait –
No one else but you.

Konstantin Mikhailovich Simonov, 1941

Memorial Day 2016

Reality in Afghanistan

My pain feels cold and selfish
My anguish very small
My reality insignificant
Compared to ones that fall
Young men with broken bodies
Their Comrades lie in sacks
Devastated parents
Their sons will not come back.

My pain will ease and lessen
My anguish slip away
Reality in Afghanistan
Two brave men died today
Young men with shell shocked faces
Growing old before their time
Are living breathing testament
To this shallow pain of mine.

Phil Williams
Bastion 1, July 2009
Posted at War Poetry

Memorial Day 2015

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal,
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation,
And a glory that shines upon her tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall  grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labor of the daytime;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known,
As the stars are known to the night.

As the stars will be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon, 1869-1943

Memorial Day 2014

Aftermath

Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same–and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads–those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

Siegfried Sassoon, 1886-1967

 

Memorial Day 2013

Dear Madam

Author Unknown, US Civil War

I am a soldier and my speech is rough and plain
I’m not much used to writing and I hate to give you pain
But I promised I would do it and he thought it might be so
If it came from one who loved him perhaps it would ease the blow
By this time you must have guessed the truth I fain will hide
And you’ll pardon me for rough soldier words while I tell you how he died

It was in the mortal battle, it rained the shot and shell
I was standing close beside him and I saw him when he fell
So I took him in my arms and laid him on the grass
It was going against orders but they thought to let it pass
‘Twas a minie ball that struck him, it entered at his side
But we didn’t think it fatal till this morning when he died

“Last night I wanted so to live, I seemed so young to go.
This week I passed my birthday. I was just nineteen, you know.
When I thought of all I planned to do it seemed so hard to die
But now I pray to God for grace and all my cares gone by.”
And here his voice grew weaker as he partly raised his head
And whispered “Goodbye, mother,” and your soldier boy was dead

I carved another headboard as skillful as I could
And if you wish to find it I can tell you where it stood
I send you back his hymn book and the cap he used to wear
The lock I cut the night before of his bright, curly hair
I send you back his Bible. The night before he died
I turned its leaves together and read it by his side
I’ll keep the belt he was wearing, he told me so to do
It had a hole upon the side just where the ball went through

So now I’ve done his bidding, there’s nothing more to tell
But I shall always mourn with you the boy we loved so well

Memorial Day 2008

It is Memorial Day here again in the US. There are veterans honored on the front page of the paper, while just a page in begins the non-stop announcement of sales, presumably also to honor veterans, though I am not quite sure that purchasing a PlayStation 3 or a Mercedes-Benz would constitute a tribute to those who fell in defense of our country.

In the skies all week though, the sounds of the past have echoed. As it was last year, the Collings Foundation has vintage WWII bombers parked out at Moffett Field. The website says that there are three planes out there offering rides, but so far I have only seen the B-17G. But I have seen it quite a lot.

It was something of a childhood fantasy, to be able to go back in time to when the sight of such a plane would be common, when the skies were full of the sound of big, supercharged engines, to live through that time. A foolish thought of childhood, ignoring the suffering, sacrifice, and uncertainty that accompanied the times. Foolish too, in that the era when it was economically and militarily viable to have such huge numbers of aircraft available was a fleeting moment of history.

Time moves forward. The generation that flew those planes, that fought that war, who were in their prime when I was born, is slowly passing on.

One member of that generation I would like to remember today is Donald Lopez. He passed away on March 3rd of this year.

He joined the Army Air Corps after the US entry into WWII and flew P-40s and P-51s with the 23rd Fighter Group of the 14th Air Force in China, the successors to the famed Flying Tigers. After the war he became a test pilot, taught at the Air Force Academy, and work on the Apollo and Skylab programs.

Were that the extent of his career, it would be worthy of mention.

But in 1972 he joined the staff of the National Air and Space Museum and spent the remainder of his life working to preserve the memory of that fleeting moment of history in which he took part.

It was while he was working in that capacity that I had the honor to meet him.

In 1989 a friend and I went to a Virginia Bader dinner here in San Jose. The main draw, the big names, were Adolf Galland and Johnnie Johnson. A seat at their table was a bit pricey, but my friend and I wanted to be in the room at least, so we opted for a less expensive position.

That put us at the table with Donald Lopez. I did not know who he was at the start of the evening, but by the end I was quite impressed. He spoke a little of the war, but our conversation revolved mostly around the Air and Space Museum and the work that had gone in to preserving a physical record of the beginning of the age of flight. His passion and depth of knowledge were impressive and it was clear that it was work he enjoyed.

And so, this Memorial Day I remember him and the 90 minutes of conversation that took place in downtown San Jose some 19 years ago.