DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
28 May 1996

WHO'LL BE THE NEW UNKNOWN SOLDIER?

On this Memorial Day, American warriors are committed around the globe, many in life-and-death missions other than war.

Sy Taylor, a Florida reader, is a young 84 and has lived through nearly a century of almost continuous war.

He sent me the following poem, which he wrote. I found it very moving and appropriate for this day.

Who'll Be the New Unknown Soldier?

This question always comes to mind
When there is talk of war.
Will Congress make the same mistake
That has been made before?
Must we become embroiled, again,
With distant foreign nations,
Where humans feed the flames of hate,
In 'no win' situations?
Will one more unknown hero be
A part of our history,
When the President and the Congress
Issue their decree?

Who'll be the new unknown soldier
To fill a hero's grave?
Who will receive this honor
In return for the life he gave?
Who'll lie in a flag-draped coffin
Never hearing his country's acclaim?
Who'll be the new unknown soldier,
A hero...without a name?

We'll never know what rank he held
Or the color of his skin.
There'll be no way of telling
What outfit he was in.
Stories will be getting 'round,
Folks anxious to receive them.
And I, for one, will heed them all
And, most likely, believe them.
Five confrontations noted,
In nearly 80 years
With naught to show, excepting
Gruesome souvenirs.

Who'll be the new unknown soldier,
Nevermore to parade?
Laid out, in state, in Washington
For the sacrifice he made.
Which mother's son will be chosen
For everlasting fame?
Who'll be the new unknown soldier,
A hero...without a name?

In '17, the war was fought
In trenches, man to man...
In '41 we had it out
With Hitler and Japan.
The '50s found us off again,
For South Korea's sake
This time it got us nowhere
And the price was hard to take.
First 'Nam, then Desert Storm ensued,
The decades filled with pain.
Are we on the brink once more,
Of doing it again?

Who'll be the new unknown soldier,
Could it be someone we know?
I can't keep from wonderin'
When I hear that last bugle blow
Who'll rest in peace in Arlington,
Never pointing the finger of shame.
Who'll be the new unknown soldier...
A hero...without a name?

EPILOGUE

Taken from the path of glory
And placed upon a hero's throne
Like those who lie beside him
Only known to God...alone.