On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember those who gave their lives in the service of country. For today’s prompt, consider the soldier, current or veteran.
You may have a serviceman or woman in your family, or you may want to think about the military in history or in the news: current embedded troops, past wars, the repealing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell back in December of 2010.
Every year, the middle school where I teach takes its eighth graders on a trip to Washington, D.C. on Veteran’s Day weekend. One of the highlights is always the fact that students often get to meet veterans while visiting the memorials, which gives them a much deeper understanding of why the memorials are there. For our example today, here is a poem I wrote during our visit last fall.
Veteran’s Day at the Wall or Why You Should Talk to Strangers
Cold. The boomerang of granite like a wound.
Waiting at the east end for my group of touring
teens, the quiet unbroken. An elderly man, sharp
in a khaki overcoat and a ranger’s beret, leans
on a cane with his left hand, salutes with his right,
and crumples into tears. Misty. Dark. No one but
me to see him. I put my arm around his broad
shoulders, ask if he is okay, if he is alone.
He nods yes to both, turns into my shoulder
like a frightened toddler and weeps. He lingers,
muttering – so many memories, so many gone.
He is not ashamed, and I am not afraid.
For a moment, we are connected, his pain
comforted and diffused by the simple act
of noticing. From the time we are young, we
are taught not to trust, not to talk to strangers.
But imagine that this man was your father, your
grandfather, alone with his grief in a ungrateful
world. You would not just watch him suffer. You
would reach out – you would give him your hand.
Whether you write to this prompt or not today, and whatever your politics may be, take a moment to be grateful for the people who choose to serve,