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The last line of one of the greatest poems written by one of the leading poets of WWI,  Wilfred Owen who died at the age of 25 one week before the end of the "War to end all wars" (November 4, 1918):
Dulce Et Decorum Est


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Out of the Iraq war came another poet, Gerardo "Tony" Mena who reads Owen's poem in this video he produced. I think it is a powerful rendition, much more impactful then the other readings on YT.

I first heard Tony's poetry in his video "So I was a coffin", ("For Corporal Kyle Powell, died in my arms, 04 November 2006.")

They said you are a spear. So I was a spear.

I walked around Iraq upright and tall, but the wind blew and I began to lean.
I leaned into a man, who leaned into a child, who leaned into a city. I walked
back to them and neatly presented a city of bodies packaged in rows.
They said no. You are a bad spear.

They said you are a flag. So I was a flag.

I climbed to the highest building, in the city that had no bodies, and I smiled
and waved as hard as I could. I waved too hard and I caught fire and I burned
down the city, but it had no bodies. They said no. You are a bad flag.

They said you are a bandage. So I was a bandage.

I jumped on Kyle's chest and wrapped my lace arms together around his torso and
pressed my head to his ribcage and listened to his heartbeat. Then I was full, so
I let go and wrung myself out.

And I jumped on Kyle's chest and wrapped my lace arms together around his torso
and pressed my head to his ribcage and listened to his heartbeat. Then I was full, so
I let go and wrung myself out.

And I jumped on Kyle's chest and wrapped my lace arms together around his torso
and pressed my head to his ribcage but there was no heartbeat. They said no. You
are a bad bandage.

They said you are a coffin. So I was.

I found a man. They said he died bravely, or he will. I encompassed him
in my finished wood, and I shut my lid around us. As they lowered us
into the ground he made no sound because he had no eyes
and could not cry. As I buried us in dirt we held our breaths together
and they said, yes. You are a good coffin.

"So I was a coffin" won first prize in the War Poetry Contest 2010 from Winning Writers.

These are but two outstanding poems from the many that have been written by veterans who used their experience in war to tell the truth.

"Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again."

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

 

BOHICA
RA18960500
Aging bitter Vietnam Veteran
Repentant ex member of Murder Inc.
Southeast Asia Division
Our motto, "Kill Anything That Moves"

Originally posted to DKos Military Veterans on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:57 AM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA.

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