This poem, by a veteran and one of our country's finest contemporary poets, encapsulates for me to a great degree what Memorial Day is really about. From Yusef Komunyakaa's collection Dien Cai Dau:
We Never Know
He danced with tall grass
for a moment, like he was swaying
with a woman. Our gun barrels
When I got to him,
a blue halo
of flies had already claimed him.
I pulled the crumbled photograph
from his fingers.
There's no other way
to say this: I fell in love.
The morning cleared again,
except for a distant mortar
& somewhere choppers taking off.
I slid the wallet into his pocket
& turned him over, so he wouldn't be
kissing the ground.
Copyright © 1988, Yusef Komunyakaa, from Dien Cai Dau (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press), p. 26.
A reflection of a visitor on Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wall of 50,000 names (from DCPages.com).