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Monday, November 15, 2010


by George Held
   Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, 2010

Once more Armistice Day falls on 11/11
But in 2010 who knows what “armistice”
Or “caisson” mean?

Once more the boys (& girls) are “over there,”
In unimaginable places called Iraq
And Afghanistan.

At 11 AM the big parade up Fifth Avenue
Begins with files of Korean War Vets, a few
WW II Vets later,

And a float carrying three little old men
With a sign saying they are our oldest
Medal of Honor recipients

And the crowd hold signs that say “We ♥ Vets”
And “Thank you, Thank you” cascades from voices
Young and old, foreign and native.

Patriotism is hip again, supporting the troops
Is cool again, maybe even war is in again:
“This is my country!”

Plays the high school band from Topeka, then
Segues into “America, the Beautiful” in march
Tempo, and I wave

My little American flag; then kilted bagpipers
From a Marine Corps auxiliary outfit play
“Amazing Grace,”

And I tear up, and wave after wave
Of uniformed veterans march by
In perfect fall weather:

The Vietnam Vets, once shunned, now idols
Of a grateful nation, especially grateful that now
There’s no draft.

At the end, to much applause, come Iraq Vets—
Iraq, lost cause of a devious leadership—and Afghan Vets—
Who sacrificed

For another feckless regime—and they are few,
Because most have been redeployed
Multiple times

And those back home have PTSD
Or bodies unfit for marching in parades,
And some are AWOL,

And then the endless march sends forth
Gorgeously reconditioned ’40s and ’50s cars,
Even a LaSalle,

And Humvees and weapons carriers, driven by Vets,
And uniformed school children lug 30-foot-square
American flags,

And then I see the Iran Vets and the Pakistan Vets
And the other veterans of the future in this state
Of perpetual war,

And another marching band plays “God
Bless America,” and I pray to the empty sky,
“Yes, God bless us.”

George Held’s poetry chapbook Phased is available in a print-on-demand version at