The young lieutenant's uniform
pressed and fit; a second skin
he was young; strong, as once was I
On his face the surety of innocence,
it set his jaw, as mine had been
back when good and bad were well defined.
In the airport, where we met,
inquired he of my service
the boarding call disrupted my reply.
"as a thank you for your service
we will board our soldiers first."
He stood to the applause
of those nearby.
Conflicted, I stood with him;
forced my hands together
as I thought about a briefing;
South East Asia, Sixty Nine
"Don't go home in your uniform,
its best to change to civies.
boys, this isn't something you have done,
its just the country's mood."
Faces of the dead came back
from where I had them
To rail against the irony
Enveloped in their bitterness
I pocketed my hands.
Yet, I knew I should be thankful
the country finally found the will
to separate the soldier from the war
But forty years of silence
wields cynicism's sword;
vague crusades abandoned;
honor still in question
The spectre of a bloody flag
in its time would touch us both
different lands, each passion stained.
Yours bellows, a cacophony;
bugles known to me as mute.
...yet I applauded
a coward to my own belief:
the day will come your quest requires
some willing men
to hold that flag aloft!
I bid you well lieutenant,
for I surely know your sacrifice
better than this airport crowd,
perhaps, better than you.
And forty years from now
should you come upon a soldier,
I will pray you can applaud him