Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rest in Peace, Ranger

A small crowd stands, shivers, nervous, unsure
The family, numb from raw emotion, does as told
Wait here - first the Old Guard band will go
A sharp rap of drum sticks will mark tempo

Then the caisson, horse-drawn
Full with majesty, history, sorrow, bearing our fallen
A casket, covered in cloth of red, white and blue
Field of stars aligned over a gallant heart now still

Next stern faced men in tan berets, black boots gleam
The set of their jaws reveals determination
This unit has taken a loss for our nation
Yet unsung, unknown, the fight does not pause
Their comrades unhesitatingly Ranger on

The family, clutching each other, drawing strength
Taking steps forward they don't want to take
Old veterans, some stooped, some limp, all with pride deep
Proud to have worn the scroll, proud to have earned the tab
These Rangers are here a vow to keep

We follow, family but not family
Past rows and rows, aligned perfectly
Memories of soldiers standing at attention
While the caisson passes in review
A breeze seems to whisper, then words that soar
Normandy, Vietnam, Grenada, and more

A final parade, witnessed by living and by dead
Many with deeds unsung, deeds unsaid
Privates and generals, sailors and airmen
All the same, all in formation

 Finally we halt and strain to see
Soldiers from the Old Guard
Pulling another comrade from the caisson
The metallic squeal of the rollers protesting
As if wanting to keep the burden

In perfect step the comrades move
Past an honor detail of stern faced men in tan berets
The beautiful, horrible coffin
A warrior Chaplain speaks the final words of comfort, of love
"In life he honored the flag - In death the flag honors him"

A sergeant barks
Crack! The rifles bark back
Ca-chink the soldiers the slides rack 
Bark! Crack! 
Bark! Crack!
Three perfect volleys
A final salute

Beautiful, horrible
Majestic, haunting
My eyes grow hot, I remember
Too many times I've heard it play
Standing by a Ranger grave

Perfectly folded by perfect soldiers
A flag given to a mother
Forever now member of a club
She didn't want to join

The Secretary of the Army
The Chief of Staff
Kneel and whisper words
Numbly she clutches the flag

An airplane overhead engines howl
Taking off from Reagan International
Do the passengers know what goes on below
The history, the tradition, the pride, the pain, and the wounded soul 

A warrior class, men in berets of tan
The finest warrior clan in the history of man
Serving a people free to be ignorant
Of the sacrifices made on their behalf

These men ask not for medals, honors, or fame
All they ask is to serve their country
To be part of this unit, to experience the camaraderie
To have the word "Ranger" before their name

Rest in peace, Ranger
For you no more danger
Your work here is done
Valhalla now your kingdom come

Absent comrades we will toast
In our memories, always foremost
We will continue to lead the way
Til we join you on the high ground someday

Rangers, Lead the Way.

- Karl Monger, 2013

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