Memorial Day 2010

(for Heather)

I’ve never understood the rhetoric of Memorial Day
and the honoring of those heroes who
gave their lives for our country.
Honor the dead, by all means yes, but
please spare me the propaganda
about how they gave their lives for freedom.
Terror and carnage know naught
of lofty ideals.

In my experience, it was rare indeed for
someone to give his life willingly, and
that was usually for comrades, not country.
Most of our hallowed dead
had their lives wrenched from them,
screaming with rage
as they convulsed in agony,
desperate to staunch life’s ebbing,
youthful longings and
dreams of love
forever in abeyance.

Today, Memorial Day 2010,
I learned that a friend
just lost her nineteen-year-old brother,
killed in Afghanistan.

Today, Memorial Day 2010,
I am reminded of what
Joseph Stalin once said,
“One death is a tragedy;
one million is a statistic.”

To truly observe Memorial Day,
we need to acknowledge the barbarism of
sending our nineteen-year-old sons and daughters
into harm’s way,
regardless the cause.

To truly observe Memorial Day,
we need to embrace tragedy, not
by the one, but by the million.

by Paul Hellweg

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3 Responses to Memorial Day 2010

  1. BRP MRS says:


  2. rostumetru says:

    Yes, smart all the best

  3. Tony Magistrale says:


    The pert blond evening news lady
    sporting new hair extensions
    insists he was one of us,
    played ball in high school, loved his mother
    and girlfriend, too. Jump cut to clean-shaven head
    shot followed by his number
    in the assembly of numbers,
    ambushed or blown to unrecognizable bits,
    sacrificed for us who love to bully war
    and have grown accustomed to the fact
    that our flags fly at half-mast half the time.
    The newscasters never offer
    details about why he died,
    or whose interests he fought to protect,
    just another casualty of war
    on its last, somber journey to a plot in Arlington.
    Some kid from Arizona or Vermont,
    son of a car salesman, a farmer’s daughter,
    but never the child of a politician
    or corporate juggernaut. Just
    another scared soldier in a strange place
    trying to keep his head down
    and not be a hero, who couldn’t
    speak the language or assimilate
    the culture, but got swept up
    by choices that were never his own.
    After the actual dying, the worst casualty
    is in the truism every warrior who has ever fought
    hears from those who always remain behind:
    we appreciate
    your sacrifice
    for the country’s honor and good,
    and there was never any other way.

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