Remembrance~ by Jillian Ross
“8(b) The parties shall help each other to get information about those military personnel and foreign civilians of the parties missing in action, to determine the location and take care of the graves of the dead so as to facilitate the exhumation and repatriation of the remains, and to take any such other measures as may be required to get information about those still considered missing in action.”
Paris Peace Accords
Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam,
Signed in Paris and entered into force January 27, 1973.
They sent “Advisers” over first, to stop the rising tide
of red from spreading downward through the narrow land beside
the sea half a world away. “They’ll fall like dominoes,” they warned
and so in ’65, the combat troops arrived to fight the conflict (not a war).
Nightly news gave casualty counts—the networks kept the score.
Too many men were dying. Now the fight required more.
A primetime broadcast drawing, let the nation watch the play
As by blue-capsuled birthdates, young men lost the game that day.
How ludicrous to think of that—some cruelly clever bureaucrat—
a game of chance, a number-dance, dreamed up to seal your fate.
No powerball enhancements and no double-winning rate,
just the journey of a lifetime won by arbitrary date.
That call-to-duty haircut made the clippers whine and zing.
In longhair days an empty scalp could only mean one thing:
How many eyes spilled tears of fear to see them on their way?
For love of God and Country, our boys sent far away,
shipped off to that land with the strange-sounding name,
set down in dense jungles to play the war game . . .
While answers blowing in the wind confirmed the game insane,
fierce fighting raged, exposed now by defoliating rain.
Times were turning upside down with flaming flags and angry sound,
the chant of protest all around, Ohio kids shot to the ground
and graphic newscasts to astound. Disintegrating lives abound
with those deathbox deliveries to every town.
Ten years of this. Then bombs exploded Hanoi. Paris table talks were done.
They staggered home, our changed young men, the conflict declared won.
They all returned with wounds that bled from body, heart, and mind—
unwelcomed with hard ridicule, their nation cruel and blind.
“Babies killed for nothing, the war you fought was wrong!”
Unfairly judged by juries made of those who hadn’t gone.
Slow healing faced the nation, though the scars would long remain
as visits to The Wall recall each lost soldier by name—
more than 50,000 carved by date of loss—heartbreaking
list on granite slash where imprints are still taken
with paper and soft pencil, then brought back to be placed in
the makeshift shrines inside the empty homes of the forsaken.
But some have never come back home. What happened isn’t clear—
a misty jungle mystery of sorrow laced with fear.
That gray-green sadness lingers as the families wait and pray,
keep photos on the mantle that remain until this day
Who would dare to alter the commemorative display—
those proud young men in uniform . . . left there as MIA.
Through fifty years of summertimes and all the picnics planned,
we iron the annual uniforms, shine up the marching bands,
spread patriotic frosting on the cakes we bake today—
that three-day weekend’s here again – it’s the Memorial Day.
From roadside seats on morning grass, the children wriggle and wave
to uniformed gentlemen offering small flags, faces solemn and grave.
Our flag flies free against blue sky. We salute, nod and applaud.
As soldiers pass, we recognize their uniforms of war.
Absorb the pomp and circumstance on this bright sunshine day
as thunder rolls from Washington, reminding us to pray
for those not here among us on this last Monday in May.
The MIAs are still not home—please tell us . . . where are they?
© 2014 Jillian Ross
Dedicated to those who have yet to return.
Bio: Jillian earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Fairfield University in 2013. Her work has appeared in Dappled Things, The Noctua Review, Dogwood, The Penwood Review, Extracts, Poetry Quarterly, Mason’s Road, Weston Magazine, The Country Capitalist, Fairfield County Life, and Connecticut Gardener.