On Memorial Day 2011, some twenty-five poets, authors and song-writers remembered our fallen soldiers in the Memorial Day Writers Project tent near the Vietnam Memorial on the Mall in Washington. The day was sunny and hot but with a gentle breeze. The sounds of motorcycles thundering by on Constitution Avenue, overhead helicopters, Christian hymns from a nearby tent, and conversations of passersby moving to or from the Memorial intermittently penetrated our consciousness.
I read my blog entry of April 29, 2011, “A Skytrooper Moves On… “Without A Song,” in memory of Col. Joseph Love, commanding officer of my unit in Vietnam, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). I also sang the two songs I wrote for him as Battalion Songwriter: “We Are Saddled Up and Ready Col. Robbie” about Robert E. Lee, who commanded the 5th Cavalry in Texas before the Civil War, and “Saddle Up, Black Knights.” (see https://richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/skytroopers/lyrics/)
From my novel Cologne No. 10 For Men, I read a portion of Ch. 9, “The Dancer,” about the ambush in which Wilfred killed his first human being, and Ch. 20, “Stewart and O’Shaunnessey,” about the sudden death of Wilfred’s platoon sergeant, an event that triggered PTSD in Chaplain Stewart, and perhaps in Wilfred himself.
For me the day was unforgettable, there were so many moving readings and songs. I can’t recall them all, nor the names of all the participants. But given a little time for Richard Epstein to collect the information from participants and post it on the MDWP website you will be able to see the full report. For now you can view their 2010 report at http://www.memorialdaywritersproject.com/docs/action%20rept-%20mem%20day%2010.pdf. If you go to this site, you’ll read about Wayne Karlin who wrote the memorable book, Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living, a book about First Lieutenant Homer Steedly’s return to Vietnam to face the family of the North Vietnamese soldier he killed, a book that Tim O’Brien calls “utterly compelling.” This year when he told the story about the friend who died “in my place” after switching duty, he was able to add more to the story because he had recently received information about why the switch was made. Donut Dolly Holley Watts also had been able to update some of her memorial stories because of people learning of her writing and adding details about those being memorialized.
Then there were poets Maritza Cohen and Sistah Joy Matthews Alford, singers Jimmy Stewart, Dave McKay, Jonathan Myer, Tom McLean, and so many more:
See www.memorialdaywritersproject.com/ for a complete review at a later time, and for now under the “Poet’s Corner,” you can hear me, Dave McKay, Jonathan Myer, and Tom McLean sing and Richard Epstein (the head of MDWP) read, and view readings of many other MDWP poets and writers.
We are now having the younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan join us, and individuals who have never served in the military to add their tributes.