Best Veteran Day Poems: Final Inspection

catkins-bookshelf-literatureOn this Veterans Day, particularly after a tumultuous and divisive presidential campaign, we take pause and stand united — despite our many differences — and remember those who sacrificed their lives on the altar of Freedom. Some of the greatest poets have penned the most moving and enduring tributes to the fallen, like “The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke; “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon; “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, and “MCMXIV” by Philip Larkin. But some of the most moving tributes have been written by the servicemen who have witnessed firsthand both the honor and horrors of war. “Final Inspection” is a beautiful, poignant tribute to the fallen, written by an Sergeant Joshua Helterbran of the 224th Engineer Battalion who was injured during his deployment in Iraq. The poem was first read by the author on October 14, 2010 at Fort Benning, at the unveiling of a monument for two soldiers that were killed in action during Operation Just Cause in 1989.

Final Inspection (Part I)
By Sergeant Joshua Helterbran

The Soldier stood and faced God
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining
Just as brightly as his brass.
“Step forward now, you Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?”
The Soldier squared his shoulders and
said, “No, Lord, I guess I ain’t
Because those of us who carry guns
Can’t always be a saint.
I’ve had to work most Sundays
And at times my talk was tough,
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep,
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.
I know I don’t deserve a place
Among the people here,
They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fears.
If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.”
There was a silence all around the throne
Where the saints had often trod
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God,
“Step forward now, you Soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well,
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.”

Read related posts: Quotations Etched on National Monuments
Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Mrs. Bixby
Lincoln Memorial Facts and Fallacies
High Flight

For further reading:

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