In honor of Memorial Day, I've selected two poems from the past and one from the present to help remember the sacrifices of our soldiers.
Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen" is often recited during remembrance services overseas. Binyon wrote the poem in 1914, shortly after the start of World War I, struck by the massive casualties the war had caused. The recent Battle of the Marne had claimed more than a half a million lives. Here's a powerful excerpt:
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.
Striking a different tone, Carl Sandburg's poignant poem "Grass" reminds us how often great sacrifices have been made and how easily we can forget.
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work-- I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor: What place is this? Where are we now? I am the grass. Let me work.
Finally, Jehanne Dubrow's "Before the Deployment" reminds us of the smaller sacrifices soldiers and their families are making everyday. The poem ends with the lines,
...all good-byes should whisper like a piece of silk--
and then the quick surprise of waking, alone except for the citrus ghost of his cologne.