Charles L. Wheeler
“Hunter”

Hunter is a veteran of the Vietnam War. He served with the 101st Airborne Division, 1/502 Infantry Battalion, Recon Platoon in 1970-71

THE FLAG DRAPED COFFIN

The crowd was small in that little country church
As those gathered awaited the arrival of the hearse
And the flag draped coffin it was bringing home to rest
With the remains of a soldier who had given his best.
There were those among them who had fought other wars
And they best understood what he’d been fighting for.

The widow was there in her long, black veil
As she clutched in her hand his last letter from Hell.
She recalled every line, every word he had said
But she had faced each day since with a feeling of dread;
The promises to be home when his duty was done
But not before the war had been won.

He had joined to serve his country, not for glory or fame
But some back here would cast him in a pall of shame.
Yes, the protesters showed up with their signs and their jeers
Till some old veterans advised them they weren’t welcome there.
And they meant to enforce their warning so stern.
If it took physical violence, then maybe they’d learn.

His dad was among them and ‘loaded for bear’
And if push came to shove he just didn’t care.
This was his son’s funeral and he’d not have it sullied
By some malcontents, nor would he be bullied.
He’d fought in Vietnam and won the Silver Star
And two purple hearts for wounds received there.

Why couldn’t they just go and let the dead rest in peace?
Or was their version of God to somehow be morbidly pleased?
Well, they saw the grit and determination in those old-timers eyes
And went on their way which was a welcome surprise.
Then the hearse pulled up with its cargo so dear
And not one single eye there was without its own tear.

The honor guard carried the soldier inside,
Their uniforms and white gloves radiant in the dim light.
Then those folks there assembled realized the solemn truth
In that flag draped coffin and a pair of empty spit shined boots.