Parades in My Honor

An icy March wind blasts off the Potomac,
Whips across a frozen Pentagon parade ground,
Knifes up a snowy Arlington hillside, 
Chills the red buds of shivering bare maples.

On the right flank, in cold granite: the Pentagon.
Five bleak ramparts belie the parade of humanity within:
Thousands of courageous, committed hearts and minds in lockstep,
Honoring me as they toil to preserve my rights and liberty.

On the left flank, marching up a snowy rise:
Arlington National Cemetery.
Identical white markers in precise rhythmic waves.
A parade honoring not the fallen, but me:
An ordinary citizen living free and privileged,
Through their sacrifice for my rights and liberty.

To the front, and over the frozen parade deck:
A flock of starlings.
Five hundred black-uniformed, focused souls  
Pass in my review, moving as one in silent drill.   

No signals or commands; in perfect unison and precision;
The shimmering fluid mass spirals up through the tempest,
In joyous celebration of free flight to the back of beyond.
Now diving, climbing, bending, gliding, arcing, swooping, soaring
With astonishing speed and liquid grace – a choreograph of nature’s imperative:
Synergy in cooperation, interdependence, and freedom.

The starlings alight on cold spring turf, poised at parade rest.
Their heads turn toward me.
I gaze at a chaotic sky and command, “Dismissed.”
Black diamonds are catapulted up and away toward their destination of eons.

To be worthy of today's honors,
I must pursue the freedom and well-being of others throughout our world. 
I will forever treasure this day among my most precious military memories.

Will Walsh