A Poem for Memorial Day

by Jennifer Pacanowski

The funeral procession from Syracuse airport to Ithaca NY was over 50 miles long.
Dragging his dead body through town after town of people, families and children waving flags.
The fallen HERO had finally come home.
I wonder how many children who saw this, will someday want to be dead HEROES too.
I did not wave a flag that day or anyway since my return.
I still can't help but think that could have been me, but it wasn’t.

The hero was hit by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle, struggled to live but didn’t make it.
That was not me.

I was missed by IEDs, bullets, mortars, RPGs.
Is it luck?
Was it training?
Was it GOD?
Was it the Devil?
Why did I survive only to come home to a war with an invisible enemy in my own skin?

I live in a dream called my life. Where the good things don't seem real or sustainable.
I live in the nightmares of the past called Iraq and PTSD that never run out of fuel.

Is it better to be a dead hero?
Or a living fucked up, addicted, crazy veteran?

Suicide rates soar, but no one calls them heroes.
So, on this day, I'm going to have a parade for those brave young men and women that killed themselves.
I was not brave enough to follow through and I admire them.

These dead decided they couldn't live with who they became, who they are, accept what happened or find healing.
The barriers and obstacles that they weave through, while carrying the burden of war, consumes them with despair and failure,
And their actions are branded on the soul as reminders of what they did "over there,"
These failures are punishable by death.
To those who were able to escape death in a combat zone like true warriors,
But could not thrive in a society that does not understand them or help them understand themselves.
I wave my motherfucking flag.

The parades run every 80 minutes, blood drips from the small towns to the big cities, the grief consuming millions of miles.

Then I wonder,
WOULD those flag wavers ask...
Why are we there?
Why are we at war?
Why are the soldiers and marines killing themselves at home?
What have we done?
How cans this stop?

Or would they just duck their heads and wave their flags? For the dead heroes.