Soldiers on a barren field lift a body on a stretcher, covered in an American flag, into a helicopter.
Alex Majoli / Magnum Photos

The Crosses

A poem for Memorial Day

This poem is dedicated to all the men and women, regardless of faith, who made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation.
I have stood before the crosses
as we laid a soldier down.
They cast a simple shadow
upon the upturned ground.
The bugler sounds taps
as each cross its witness bears
to the journey of a soldier
released from earthly cares.
I have stood before the crosses
and prayed a lonely prayer,
in hopes of some redemption
as I struggled to compare
My life of long contentment
with the soldier’s hallowed call
to warrant with his dying breath
a better world for all.
I have stood before the upturned ground
and struggled to compare
my courage and my character
with the man or woman there.
Would I have died a valiant death
in a foreign land,
upon a distant battlefield,
to save my fellow man?
I have stood before the crosses
as the sun was going down,
watching as the shadows faded
upon the upturned ground.
I have looked upon the hillside of
the crosses, row on row,
upon the young and brave of heart
never to grow old.
I have knelt before the crosses
at night, before I sleep,
and made upon my bended knee
a covenant I keep:
To live a life of service,
to honor all our losses,
for those who went before us,
those beneath the crosses.