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The March of the Dead

The March of the Dead
by Col. Ed Danowitz, USMC (ret)

About the black and marble wall
they mustered in one last roll call,
and as each name was nobly read
in voice heard only by the dead,
each one in proud response confirmed
that they were there in honor earned,
yet still prepared to fill such task
as comrades might of each one ask.

But, could the living dare implore
those sacred dead to serve once more?
To form again and march in ranks
in place of those who heard no thanks,
who fought the war, who stood in place,
yet on return met but disgrace,
who heard each curse, who took the blame
for those who caused a nations shame.

Was it not right for those who served
to seek respect as each deserved?
Yet such respect could but befall
from those whose names engraved the wall.
So each agreed to honor yield
to those who lived with wounds unhealed,
to march for each, to ease the pain,
for each a hero’s tribute gain.

Then with the call…”Form for review!”
Each from the wall their name withdrew
to leave it somber, lonely, bare,
protected still by God’s own care,
The parade was formed, the march course set,
now all the fallen once more met,
in proud reunion, to march with pride
in silent, metered, saintly stride.
Those souls, from human bond set free
moved with immortal dignity
as shadows O’er each throng filled street
paced by a drummer’s solemn beat,
but mortal eyes could not behold
those marching, as marched saints of old,
and only could those with due’s paid
bear witness to this last parade.

In admiration heroes rose,
from battles past, against old foe’s,
from Valley Forge and Bunker Hill,
Gettysburg, and Chancellorsville.
Washington, Jackson, Grant, and Lee
reviewed the march with solemnity.
and those who held the Alamo
joined men who bled in white French snow,
at Soissons, Marne, and Belleau Wood.
Thus Crockett and Pershing together stood.
…..And the parade passed on.

Pearl Harbor’s heroes to a man
rose with all those who fought Japan
at Guadacanal, Siapan, the Philippines
with MacArthur and the brave marines
who raised the flag on Iwo’s sand
to mark the corps determined stand.
Wainwright was joined by hundreds more
forced from Bataan, Corregidor,
to march ignoble, fraught with pain
to die when strength dared not remain.
…..And the dead marched on.

Now Eisenhower with a soldier’s pride
viewed the parade, while at his side
stood Patton and the valiant score
who were flung upon a Norman’s shore.
As a nation prayed these hero’s fought
with inspiration each soul wrought.
They faced the Bulge, they crossed the Rhine
to form one final battle line,
then drove to meet a victor’s fate
in the shadows of the Brandenberg Gate.
…..And the ranks marched on.

Brothers of “The Forgotten War”
who remembered Inchon, The Reservoir
where as the heat of battle rose
on this cold front they fought, they froze,
not asking what be freedoms price
or who should make the sacrifice.
They held at Seoul, with faith drove on
to hold the line at Panmunjon.
All stood in tribute, to the man,
for each could truly understand
for they that marched, marched for them too
to help restore past honors due.
…..And the parade moved on.

And in the distance massed a crowd,
shadowed by a sinful shroud,
to hide those privileged from the war
who burrowed deep on foreign shore,
they dared crawl out, and returned
to savor life and rights unearned.
And with them sharing equal blame
were those who claimed to share no blame,
whose protests turned our nations flag
into a jumbled, burning rag,
who scorned and mocked those with the right
to serve their land, to join the fight.
Each found deferment from the call
in an ivy covered campus hall.

And those possessed of greatest hate
went to Hanoi, the Kremlin Gate
to denounce our land with ignominy,
and with treason aid the enemy.
They dared not now to look and face
the marching lines, to know disgrace
the presence noble men provoke
to those who dare not take the yoke.
The marching ranks looked but ahead,
each step in cadence of the dead,
but every soul one thought did share:
Blest I am here..not with them there.
…..and the dead marched on

Across the bridge to Arlington
the line moved on and stood as one
in homage at the sacred flame
that honors heroes without name.
Now each who marched a new name read
in voices echoed by the dead
to call here present souls alive,
of men who fought and yet survived
who still bore scars in flesh and mind
whose hearts sought but true peace to find.
Here each soul learned as the flame grew,
it burned to honor those men too.
Could not this privilege be proscribed
by comrades that had fought and died?
Could not immortal men proclaim
the honors those deprived may claim?
Yes, those unnamed now join to share
with those who marched one final prayer:
In brotherhood we all are one,
Eternal Lord, thy will be done.

The task complete, a bugler played
the funeral notes to end parade,
and each who marched now left the ranks
to cross old proud Potomac’s banks
as on the wall in death endeared,
the names of each, once more appeared
that living comrades joined in prayer,
might know the honors heroes share.

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