For Your Tomorrow

Our news is filled with daily coverage of wars taking place in various areas of the world. And through history to modern time, destructive events such as these have motivated people, military and civilian alike, to write about their deep visceral feelings and their life changing experiences. They write of their sadness, joy, and fear. They write of death and survival.

I thought of America’s war history and became curious about how we as a people have expressed our emotions and recorded our experiences in writing. This led me to look at America’s war poetry. I wish I hadn’t found so much from which to choose for inclusion in this post. But choose I did.

Some poems are by famous writers, some by individuals who were there, some have well-known lines. Styles and perspectives have changed. The poet’s voice may be distant or lofty, the poet’s voice may be close. But the inner cries of loss and questioning haven’t changed.

The pieces I collected from America’s war poetry begin with the Revolution and a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. (My father’s middle name was Emerson for RWE.) For the Civil War, I chose “The Blue and the Gray” to honor both sides. These are followed by poems of World War I, World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq. See what you think.

*** The Revolution

National Guard Heritage Painting

National Guard Heritage Painting

Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

*** The Civil War

"Hancock at Gettysburg" by Thure de Thulstrup

“Hancock at Gettysburg” by Thure de Thulstrup

The Blue And The Gray by Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907)

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one, the Blue,
Under the other, the Gray

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day
Under the laurel, the Blue,
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day;
Under the roses, the Blue,
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue,
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment -day,
Wet with the rain, the Blue
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
No braver battle was won:
Under the sod adn the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue,
Under the garlands, the Gray

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.

*** World War I

Over the Top by John Nash

Over the Top by John Nash

Rendezvous by Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air –
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath ­
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear …
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

*** World War II

Military Artworks - Band of Brothers

Military Artworks – Band of Brothers

The Sonnet-Ballad by Gwendolyn Brooks

Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
They took my lover’s tallness off to war,
Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess
What I can use an empty heart-cup for.
He won’t be coming back here any more.
Some day the war will end, but, oh, I knew
When he went walking grandly out that door
That my sweet love would have to be untrue.
Would have to be untrue. Would have to court
Coquettish death, whose impudent and strange
Possessive arms and beauty (of a sort)
Can make a hard man hesitate–and change.
And he will be the one to stammer, “Yes.”
Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?

*** The Korean War

We Remember by M. Garvey

Those we left there in the cold
We remember, we remember
Have no fears of growing old
Oh do we remember

Those who fell in prison yards
We remember, we remember
Savage weather savage guards
Oh do we remember

Those who died face down in mud
We remember, we remember
Asian soil Yankee blood
Oh do we remember

Those whose names we can’t forget
We remember, we remember
Comrade spirits with us yet
Oh do we remember

Heartbreak Ridge and Pork Chop Hill
We remember, we remember
If we don’t honor them who will
Oh do we remember

Those who died when far too young
We remember, we remember
It is for them this song is sung
Oh do we remember

*** The Vietnam War

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial In Washington, D.C.: Memorial Sculptures Of The Three Soldiers

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial – In Washington, D.C., Memorial Sculptures of The Three Soldiers

Nam Night by Pete “Doc” Fraser

God, how I hate the night.
Twilight creeping in graying out the green,
turning the jungle black.
Fear grows inside like the winding of a clock.
Under the black cover of darkness,
the hunter becomes the hunted
and Charlie owns the night.
The fear is as real as the night
and grips us all in its unrelenting hold.
Through the sleepless hours the fatigue builds
sapping both mind and body.
In the tense haze of early morning,
you lie on the jungle floor
while waiting for the morning sun
to take away the night’s hiding blanket of darkness.
It is in the morning,
as the sun paints the jungle from black to green
that you begin to relax the night’s vigil
and you take the countryside back from Charlie.


Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Ashbah by Brian Turner

The ghosts of American soldiers
wander the streets of Balad by night,
unsure of their way home, exhausted,
the desert wind blowing trash
down the narrow alleys as a voice
sounds from the minaret, a soulfull call
reminding them how alone they are,
how lost. And the Iraqi dead,
they watch in silence from rooftops
as date palms line the shore in silhouette,
leaning toward Mecca when the dawn wind blows.

*** Hope

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Terra’s Land by Carol Mann

The woman knows
the ruins of war,
her heart pierced by
despondency and loss.

She clasps
an injured child
to her breast.
Where is his family?

With gentle touch,
she wraps him
in her warmth.
Will he survive?

The fragile child,
the hallowed homeland
upon which she stands,
give her strength.

She pushes aside the
seeds of chaos,
clears the debris of hate.
unearths her resolve.

Her land and people
are survivors,
children of the universe.


The lust for power, political beliefs, and religious beliefs can lure reasonable men to pursue destructive ways. Respect, tolerance, the universality of our wants and needs, and the safety of the world for our children become buried in baser instincts. But hope isn’t easily extinguished. May our leaders, negotiators, and strategists continue pushing forward toward co-existence and humane actions.

Thanks for taking this journey through history with me. Memorial Day is everyday.

“For your Tomorrow, we gave our Today.” John Maxwell Edmunds 1916.

About cmwriter

I'm a writer ... of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I blog about writing, short stories, poetry, books, plays, and thoughts on life. Love reading and travel and being with friends!
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2 Responses to For Your Tomorrow

  1. Nice collection.
    I found the blue and gray to be the most poignant. Im surprised by the lack of description in others but that distance might be explained by the tortures of war and a friendship with metaphors and thoughts over the reality.

  2. cmwriter says:

    Thanks. Appreciate your comment. Yes, re: The Blue and The Gray – choosing a piece from the Civil War was difficult. As I read the poetry from that war, I continually was reminded that this was on American soil, brother against brother. As I continued with the other pieces, I kept wondering, Why do countries and humans keep doing this to each other? I found the Korean War Monument especially haunting. Poetry – so much content in so few words.

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