CLEARWATER TRIBUNE HOME

MAY 27, 2010

Just Another Memorial Day

By Phillip Hance

Just another Memorial Day

Another three day run

Just another Memorial Day

Another Indy race is won

Just another Memorial Day

A chance to have some fun

Just another Memorial Day

They’re faces I still see

Just another Memorial Day

Their names won’t come to me

Just another Memorial Day

They’re lying in their grave

Just another Memorial Day

The lives they helped to save

Just another Memorial Day

The meaning we forget

Just another Memorial Day

   We must not forget what this day really means. We must remember the families of the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom.

***

A veteran’s timeless story

By Gary Tragesser, Republic of Vietnam, Mar. 17, ‘68

Traveling Companion

On a sticky, hot early morning,

Two of us wait for the ride to take us off this hill.

Curious, I glance at my traveling companion

Taking note of his faded, baggy green suit

With its torn pocket, pulled buttons, and scuffed boots.

We are dressed alike.

Avoiding eye contact, I look tor details

And wonder about this man,

Dark complexioned, eyes half closed, staring straight ahead.

The shadow across his lower jaw shows

That he did not shave this morning

Or maybe not even yesterday.

Looking above his right breast pocket, I note

A slightly darker shade of green

Where a name tag used to be.

An open flap on a pants pocket reveals

The top of a paperback novel.

He's a reader like me.

 I wonder at the book's title.

Lost in this thought, I fail to hear

The steady beat of our approaching ride.

As our dull green taxi settles down in front of us,

The choking red dust obscures the blueness

Of the sky and the brightness of the sun.

The rotor slows and the dust settles

Over the two of us like a dark red shroud.

Neither bothers to brush away the grime,

Rather accepting it as our due.

I see the crew chief crawl from behind his machine gun,

Slowly disconnect his helmet cord,

Reach under the his seat,

And withdraw a dark familiar rectangular object.

Dismounting, he starts toward us,

Slowly unfolding his black package.

As he reaches me, without word

He hands me a corner, and I rise to help open it.

With care, we spread it next to my fellow traveler.

Still without comment, we reach down.

I grasp the bloody hands of the man

Whose name I do not know.

Lifting together, we place him gently

In the thick rubber bag that smells strangely

Like a new inner tube that I played on as a child.

Carefully, I place his hands to his side,

Take one last look at the book he would never finish.

The helicopter crew chief closes the zipper

Over the man, the book, and the dust.

Quietly we lift the black cocoon

And carry it to the waiting aircraft.

Placing it on the floor, I turn and walk back,

Pick up my small bag and the rifle,

And take my seat on the floor next to him.

Together we fly away, I to an island

Where for seven days there will be no bombs, bullets, or black bags,

Where each sunset will bring me

That much closer to returning to this hill.

My friend will travel first to have the dust washed from his face,

Be released from the black shell

And placed in a more comfortable bed.

A flag will cover him now for honor.

He then will travel to his home where

He will never again know the pain or the fear

That so brutally found him this morning.