By J. Scott Price
I was presented with the opportunity a few days ago to write this short piece on the occasion of Memorial Day 2019, our country’s annual one-official-day of remembrance for those who died in military service to our nation. It is an honor to share a few words with you, and I thank you for your time.
While this weekend is the unofficial start of the summer season, and I hope each of you get to enjoy this time with family and friends, as I plan to do as well, it’s too easy for us not to take a moment or two and reflect on those who lost their lives in military service to our county.
I am a veteran, yes, but this day and this moment is not just for veterans, it’s for all of us. Regardless of political opinions or current headlines, this day and this moment honors and respects those now gone, but hopefully, never forgotten. It is for the living that the act of remembrance best serves.
I’m not writing on behalf of all veterans because I can’t. There are millions of us, and there are even more millions of non-veterans, but we’re all Americans, and we each have our own one voice, and the right to share that voice. It’s one of our most cherished human rights.
I didn’t write the poem below specifically as a Memorial Day tribute, though.
It started about a year ago as I was driving to visit some friends I had served with for a weekend getaway, and I was reflecting on our sporadic times together after we’d hung up our uniforms. And I was also thinking about how when we gather now it is impossible not to reflect on our times together while in uniform, and our fellow servicemen and women who died while wearing those same uniforms.
And so this poem was born from those ponderings. I share it with you now not as great art, or the final say on any subject—far from it, friends. I share it with you because it is just one voice, amongst all of ours, and I think it speaks far better than I do.
It is my hope you all have a wonderful, long weekend and that you’re able to carve out at least one minute to reflect upon those no longer here with us. 3pm on Monday, May 27th, 2019, has been set aside as a national Moment of Remembrance. Our area has a strong tradition of military service and support so I doubt this will be much of a challenge.
Thank you again for your time.
J. Scott Price
Let the Words Fly
Once, maybe twice a year I get to let loose
in salty language with others
who once wore the same cloth. We
let some comrades go because
death left us no choice, so
we are their voices now. We
use words deemed uncouth
for polite society’s guise, slap each other,
and fart and spit. Were we
a fly on the wall, of genteel genealogy,
we’d drop dead to the floor from the
vibration of those words,
wings shredded. Spouses and children
give us space, keeping safe
distance between. We
appreciate their gift. And the night
rolls on and the fly-pile grows
til at first light, we,
bleary eye but renewed,
can mortar them all into a wall
for us to once again mount as We.
J. Scott Price is a participant in the Virginia War Memorial’s Mighty Pen Project and served 24 years in the Virginia Army National Guard as an infantryman.
The Mighty Pen Project offers free college-level creative writing classes for veterans of any age, any service branch. For more information or to register for fall class on Wednesday nights at EMU, visit the project website or contact: Christine Black at (434) 825-3794 or [email protected]; or Spencer White at (540) 421-8243 or [email protected].
You can support veterans telling their stories by attending a public reading by Mighty Pen Project participants on Friday, June 21 at 7pm at: The Gathering Place, 731 Mt. Clinton Pike, Harrisonburg VA 22802.
For more information, contact (434) 825-3794.