Michael Marks

Michael Marks: A Day to Remember (IWVPA Bronze Helmet Top Poet Award of Excellence - September 2004)A DAY TO REMEMBER

In crimson hue the missiles flew and cracked the sky asunder,
while mortars tolled, explosions rolled and shook the ground like thunder.
Yet in the midst of rockets roar a figure stood alone,
a grizzled sergeant gazing on the field with eyes of stone.

He’d heard before the mortars roar in jungles far away,
and left his blood there in the mud where fallen comrades lay.
And when it seemed the gates of hell itself had opened wide,
when every fiber of his being had screamed to run and hide,
he held his ground and duty bound to country and to Corps
he faced the final sacrifice as many had before.

A sudden movement in the night broke through his reverie,
to drive away old memories he’d just as soon not see.
On trembling legs a breathless figure dashed across the street
collapsing on the ground before the grizzled sergeant’s feet.

“Oh Grandpa did you see ‘em?” asked the boy with shining eyes,
“the fireworks are really cool, they almost fill the skies!”
The sergeant smiled and hugged the boy, a moment most sublime.
“You bet I did” the sergeant said, “I’ve seen them many times.”

Then with a kiss on Grandpa’s cheek he jumped and dashed away
Returning to the magic that was Independence Day.
And with a gentle sigh the sergeant, flanked on either side
by sons and daughters, hugged his wife, now thirty years his bride.

He raised his eyes to heaven where the flag now proudly flew,
majestic in her billowing of red and white and blue.
With hand upon his brow he stood once more in proud salute,
His love for God and Country ever strong and absolute.

And thinking back upon those nights so full of pain and fear,
when locked in mortal combat he was sure his end was near;
He said a prayer of thanks that God had seen to pull them through
And given him a life that those who’d fallen never knew.

With humble heart he took his place with patriots of lore,
And shared an oath with every soldier that had gone before.
Should e’er the call arise to stand for nation, God and friends…
He knew from deep within his heart he’d do it all again.

Author’s Note: While Independence Day is a celebration of the patriotism and sacrifice that first gave birth to the United States of America in 1776 it remains a day for all Americans to remember the ongoing sacrifices of our Armed Forces personnel in their defense of our nation.

The Fourth of July is a time of great celebration, yet the images that bring such delight – the “rocket’s red glare” – harkens back to times of war and struggle. This poem was written for my Grandpa, who served with distinction in WWII yet remained quiet about his own achievements; we never knew he had been awarded the Bronze Star until after he had passed away. He remains one of the great examples in my life, a quiet and loving man who put his service to God, country and neighbor before his own needs or recognition. This poem is a tribute to all of our veterans, who give us the right to rejoice in our Independence Day