by Christopher Reilley
Once you were mine, as kith and as kin,
but you followed your duty into war.
You gave your life for someone else's sin
next to guys you'd barely met before.
I tell my children of you, and all the rest
make sure they know that you were ours;
our brothers, our fathers, or any of the best
that were given over to stars and bars.
Young men and women with families all
tied to each of us by birth and societal tree.
Some saw a job and some heeded a call
but because they did we are all still free.
If you returned but left parts of you behind,
or if Fate never returned you to me at all,
if you were struck dumb, or deaf, or blind,
if all I knew of you was an etching on a wall
I would thank you with everything in my heart,
show you that your gift was not in vain.
We are free to act both together and apart
because of successful military campaigns.
And even if you had clerked files back on base
or repaired jeeps, dug ditches, or cooked in the mess,
your service and sacrifice cannot be replaced,
and upon you our grateful thanks we profess.