The poem I chose today, “Like Father Like Son” pays tribute to Memorial Day in the United States. It is the day when Americans honor the men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country. We celebrate it on the last Monday of May. Family, friends and sometimes an entire community will place flags on the graves of fallen soldiers.
Memorial Day officially became a federal holiday in 1971. The practice of selecting a day in spring to honor soldiers who had died in combat dates back to the U.S. Civil War. These days were known as Decoration Days. More than 20 cities claim that they originated Decoration Days. The federal government, however, has declared Waterloo, New York, as the place where the tradition began.
But Memorial Day is about more than just honoring soldiers. It is also about offering comfort to their survivors and acknowledging the sacrifice that they have made in honor of their country. It is about remembering the widows who lost the loves of their lives, the children who have grown up without a parent and the siblings, and friends who miss their companions. Their lives, too, will never be the same.
“Like Father, Like Son” is an obscure poem. The author, Douglas Mcguire, is not famous. In fact, I have been unable to find anything else that he has written. I found the poem on a website called Family, Friends Poems. You can read it in its entirety here. The author wrote this brief introduction:
“I wanted to show honor to the men and women who have served our country in the past and present. So my intentions were to tie Vietnam to the current situation. I feel in many families, it’s a family tradition to serve our great country.”
“Like Father Like Son” tells the story of Tyler James, a young man whose father died in Vietnam when Tyler was just an infant. Tyler is proud of his father’s sacrifice, but he needs to work very hard to help his mother and his sister scrape by.
Eventually, Tyler grows up and gets a good job, just as the terrorist attacks of 9/11 devastate the nation. Tyler is sure there will be a war and, like his father before him, he enlists to defend his country. He is sent overseas where he eventually takes his “final fall.”
When his mother hears of his death, she arranges for Tyler’s burial on a hill in a peaceful countryside. His grave marker reads:
“He was proud of his country, he would fight until we won.
He was killed in battle, like father like son.”