Drums red drums blue drums gold
Sparks of color in the snow far ahead
At the crown of the bridge in the cold
Gray sky black water thudding choppers
Stamping feet mark time …
… the long
Line of wars expanded back to us and
Fanned into a future bought with blood
Remembered on this day of numbers.
Interleaved with dissonant high school
Bands and active units, by fits and
Starts the massive column moved
Over the top: the ancients of the First
Riding in honor; the tough old men of Two
With sure and certain knowledge of
The well-fought fight in righteous cause;
Beyond us came the disenchanted
Rear-guard, camouflaged and hairy.
”You all are heroes,” said a banner
Halfway to the waiting brass.
What am I doing here, looking down
The years and up this vast perspective
To the past? No military family, mine,
And yet each generation in its time
Took up the sword as needed from
The beginnings. Could I do less?
And to affirm that my own war was
Something more than a forgotten
Yellowed ID card to mark a page
Of savage incident among the epics.
We were not many and had neither
Bitterness nor glory, but we marched,
By god, and even if they did not recognize
Our ribbons striped in blue and white
The crowd that channeled us along the way
Applauded as we passed …
… Here’s the brass!
Eyes right! Hand salute! Drums blue
Drums green drums brown uniforms
Of every branch down the slope mark time
Mark time break rank disperse into
The city, the worried peace, the separate
Lives that we have paid for long ago.
Henry D.M. Sherrerd Jr. of Dexter served in the U.S. Air Force in the Korean War. He has been a mechanic, military data analyst, screenwriter and contributor to the Uni-Verse, among other things.
Several notes to this poem provided by the author seemed to the editor to be interesting and pertinent:
*Like all writers I sometimes deal with events that the reader may not know of at all. In this case, the dedication ceremonies at the opening of the Vets Remembrance Bridge. That was 24 years ago, and many readers were not even born then. So the title [of the poem is] 11/11/11/86, thus identifying the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the time of the armistice/cease-fire for World War I, and then the march over the bridge in 1986.
*Should you wonder about the “gold” in the first line, rather than the expected white of red-white-blue flags: The gold borders of the flags were prominent even from far back in the line of march. I thought the snow took care of the white.
*I mean no disrespect whatever for the Vietnam vets in describing them as camouflaged and hairy. They were, in marked contrast to other vets who wore Class A uniform in whole or part. As I remember, I wore my USAF dress-blue blouse with ribbons, S/Sgt. stripes, etc. over my daily outfit. And “disenchanted”? Well, neither did we Korean War vets get much of a hero’s welcome on return. The main reaction I got after two years in Japan was, “Gee, I haven’t seen you in a long time. Where were you?” Korea is truly the forgotten war.
*Should there be any question about the military service of my family “from the beginnings,” the statement is just. Several ancestors were vets of the Revolution, several more for the War of 1812, and Great-grandfather Henry D. Moore plus his brother and cousins for the Civil War – which he called The War of the Rebellion. More recently, my father served in both World Wars I and II, also with cousins, followed by Korea for me and a first cousin I grew up with. One of my better memories is of having drinks with him in the bar of the famous old Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, when he was on pass from his artillery unit in Korea. We ignored the enlisted man-officer situation (he was a 1st lieutenant) and enjoyed a far-from-home family reunion.
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