I rode AmTrac's Southwest Chief streamliner to St. Louis
From Oceanside, from California, from the town
Where young Marines from Pendleton,
Back then in `50, `51, or `52
Flirted with their final pretty girls, and
Pitched their bittersweet last Stateside liberty,
Then boarded ships or planes to keep
The dates with destiny they'd share
With Dog-2-7 in Korea, in that tortured,
Stinking, lovely place, in the land
Of morning calm, in the land of midnight madness.
Some of them died on hill 1240 at Yudamni
More on snowy ridges, red-stained with their blood,
As they fought their way back from the Reservoir.
Later, many others gave their lives
In the war of trenches, bunkers, and embattled outposts
On the Western front, astride that corridor to Seoul.
I rode AmTrac to St. Louis,
To the Gateway City on the mighty river,
And as I rattled through the night
Aboard the Southwest Chief, I pondered -
Was I, and all the others on our way
To what, for some of us, might be our final muster
In the ranks of Dog-2-7, in this brotherhood
Of men who'd proven long ago
Their willingness to die, if need be,
For those dirty, raggedy-assed Marines
With whom they shared their fighting holes,
Were we just old men vainly seeking
To regain, somehow, our youth?
When we got to that reunion, only then,
Did we learn the simple answer to the question
Turning over in the minds and hearts of many-
Were we vainly seeking something gone forever?
We found, instead, the reason we were there
Was to celebrate the lives of all of those
Who couldn't come, men who lie now deep
In consecrated ground, some still beneath
The rocky, bitter soil of North Korea.
We travelled to St. Louis, all of us,
In the name of men who still lie, crippled, maimed,
Hospitalized for what remains of life, too racked by wounds
To come together with us, to this place
And clasp old friends again in warm embrace.
We went there to St. Louis, not to seek lost youth,
But to marvel at the fact that we survived,
And to give due homage to the brave Marines
Who died that we might do so.
Those of us who meet again in `91
Will share again the treasure dearly won
Of brotherhood and comradeship, and wear with pride,
Those Dog-2-7 tee shirts on our ancient hides!!