Today as I honor the many who have fallen, I know
They were people like us. They had lives, just as we do.
They had families and friends, mothers and fathers,
Sisters and brothers. They grew up to learn practical skills
And hold trades; to attend college to be doctors and engineers,
Scholars and teachers, artists and musicians, for the
Greater benefit of loved ones and society.

They did not set out to die and be celebrated as heroes,
Suffering the dehumanizing indignities of war and mass death,
These were thrust on them as the terms of service to keep us safe.
And as they rose to the grim challenge their promising lives
Were brutally stripped away to deal with the nefarious machinery
Of those who only view things adorned in power, subjugation,
Conquest and spilled blood—enemies, us versus them at all cost.

I wonder about the fallen, who they were,
What happened, how their lives were erased.
And that millions and millions in so-called advanced
Enlightened countries across continents fell for it not wanting
To know the horrors committed in their name until too late.
The big questions always apply, what it means to be human,
And how people might find the ways to live in peace.
I dream of a world without hatred and conceit.

And I realize, realize, the monstrosity that leads to war is
Everywhere with us, reaching out in all directions.
Nothing less than the same somber black shadow under our feet
Rises enormous in front, what you can’t see your way around.
We are at one end, not even the ground is safe or solid.
I am very, very, grateful for our fallen heroes.
I thank them all, knowing full well that until we can make
A better world we’d be nowhere without them.

Stephen Cipot
Garden City Park

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