As I walked past the courthouse square,
an older man was sitting there
on an old green bench beneath a tree.
He didn't seem to notice me.

His clothes were old and out of style,
and he hadn't shaved for quite a while.
I wondered what stories he could tell,
so I decided to stop and sit a spell.

He seemed as a man down on his luck;
as though he didn't have a buck;
but his weathered face had a confident look,
as he sat there reading a soft-back book.

With a friendly smile, I nodded his way;
 I wasn't sure just what to say;
But he spoke first; his voice was calm.
He asked if I'd served in Viet Nam

"How'd you know," I asked the man.
"I noticed the quiver in your hand. "
Then he held out his hand, and it shook too.
"You see I got mine in World War Two."

"The men and women who served in that hell,
Fought very hard, and fought very well.
We've both seen death and both were afraid.
But we came back to a hero's parade."

"We fought for God and for our country too;
We sacrificed our lives for the Red, White, and Blue.
Few now remember the sacrifice of some;
now we're forgotten since our chore is done."

I thought of what the old man said;
of the many who now are dead.
His words rang true in my ears;
That we never received the hero's cheer.

Weren't we too, our mother's sons?
Wasn't it our duty to take-up the gun?
Didn't we answer our country's call?
Aren't our names on the granite wall?

What of those who ran away
who still have a debt yet to pay?
They took the place of those who paid!
Rewards were given to those who stayed!

And never went to serve at all.
Now they are the leaders of the land!
They are the ones who make the plans!

We must remember the crosses in rows,
and the service that was paid by those
who rose to answer the country's need
For they are all true heroes, in deed!

The old man rose to walk away,
but paused just long enough to say,
"Pay homage to those honored dead.
Don't look back, but rather ahead."

I never knew the old man's name,
But I felt that I knew him, just the same.
It was more than a bench we shared that day;
We were two soldiers who were willing pay!

By:    Thomas A McClure