“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” — Albert Einstein

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


They come home to cameras and flags,
balloons and poster boards.
They come home to old soldiers
in receiving lines with flags raised—
Hip Hip Hooray
old soldiers who form a gauntlet civilians hesitate to walk.
Like the mounds of dirt we skirt in a cemetery
(even after the soil settles),
we are not worthy to walk their gauntlet.
Don’t shake my hand; I only work here.
This receiving line is not for me.

And I wonder . . .
Are these new soldiers in it for the money?
Don’t hate me, I merely ask.
Serving merely for pay, says Webster,
is the definition of mercenary.
With the flag sewn backwards on their sleeves,
do they know what it means
to be in it for the money?

Sometimes they fly in alone to a girlfriend or a parent
and I wonder how they managed it.
There’s room for honest emotion
without the media attention and the old vets
who only want them to have what they didn’t have.

A mother and father wait outside the security checkpoint
with eyes fixed on the horizon of the terminal
for a glimpse of their boy.
They shyly hold two small flags,
like the ones sold on the 4th of July
that you’re supposed to—I guess—stick in the flowerbed
like an ornamental praying mantis
to show your support.
Thrust upon them like the recruiter’s handshake,
they aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do with them.

Their boy walks down the exit lane to meet them.
“Put those away,” he says. "I need a cigarette.”


Wine and Words said...

Very thought provoking. I think there are so many more considering the military for the money and education with the economy such as it is. My oldest considered it. I told him I would support his choice, but that it should come from a love of country and a willingness to die for it. If it was for money or opportunity, I would help him do whatever it took to find another way. I could not have survived his dying for dollars or dividends. But that's just me.

Yvonne Osborne said...

They say that in hard times enlistment numbers go up as choices narrow. Thanks for commenting.

Anthony Duce said...

I Like the objective views as expressed. I wonder if for most, if there isn’t a mix of it all. The money, the education opportunities, anticipated respect, and different expectations about life.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thanks for your comment. It most likely is, but so sad, the ones who don't come home and the ones who do with these horrible head injuries we are only beginning to understand.

Promising Poets Parking Lot said...

how are you?

wishing you the best.
share one piece with us today, make more friends...

bless you.
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Yvonne Osborne said...

Why, thank you. I'll check it out.