A Veteran’s Day at the VA: Reflections while waiting my turn

James N. Zitzelsberger
This morning I saw a soldier’s cap...

This morning I saw a soldier’s cap

Sitting quite still on an old man’s lap

While he waited his turn for a VA nurse,

Come what may, better or worse.

The cap said VETERAN, nothing more,

But it invited questions, questions galore,

Like where did you serve and when was that?

“Anzio,” he said, “And I was lucky to get back.”

“Hell on earth is what I thought,

Until we went to Korea and the winters we fought.

But I was still young, so what did I know?

Except it was cold, and with cold you get snow.”

“I was a buck sergeant, way back then

With a platoon of eighteen hard, cold men;

Some of whom I still know

And others who won’t ever let me go!”

“A few years later we were deep in Vietnam

Wishing for some of that snow instead of napalm,

Or maybe a chopper to help us all reach

A three-day pass on China Beach.”

“Now, I don’t know if I’d ever do it again:

Three whole wars from start to end—

But then, I guess, it’s what I had to do

Because it grew in my family of red, white and blue.”

“My grandfather served in the Spanish-American War;

My father in One on France’s trench floor;

My son served near me in Vietnam too

And I’ve a granddaughter who saw Desert Storm through.”

It was quite a litany of service from one family

When love of country was what it had to be

And when the old man stood, the room stood too

In full salute to that old soldier and his crew!

Lifting his head, he put his cap on straight,

Snapped to attention, not one moment late,

And returned that salute with one of his own—

Square and straight, like it was chiseled in stone!

He shuffled off then, one foot at a time,

With a nurse and her clipboard, not far behind,

In case he should slip, though as unlikely as before,

After all of that service in the front lines of war.

MORE: Holzschuh, Van Haren families inspire with generations of military service

Editor's note: The Holzschuh and Van Haren families were the inspiration for  Zitzelsberger's tribute poem which he will read at the Chilton High School Veterans Day observance.