Arthur George Bonifas
West Point, 1966
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Ed Wright on October 29, 2000:
Already many years past, our Class was dispatched from West Point with our dreams, emblems of rank and a President's commission to conduct the Republic's business once, and for many, again on our nation's Roman frontiers. Ten years later in June of 1976 I was able to break away from my own duties in Korea to share an afternoon with Art on Korea's DMZ. While we indulged in the camaraderie of classmates, recalling shared memories of West Point and of family, Art became reflective as we walked the tree-ringed, border site shared jointly by the North Korean and the US forces. Prophetically, he speculated on the likelihood and scenario of some future incident, even as we walked the ground. However, the end-of-tour month of August was fast approaching, we both agreed. As I remember the August events, so I remember our brief reunion. In the spirit of that recollection I offer Stanza XI of Karl Shapiro's 1944 poem "Elegy for a Dead Soldier", which was one of West Point's last gifts to us:
"The time to mourn is short that best becomes
The military dead. We lift and fold the flag,
Lay bare the coffin with its written tag,
And march away. Behind, four others wait
To lift the box, the heaviest of loads.
The anesthetic afternoon benumbs,
Sickens our senses, forces back our talk.
We know that others on tomorrows roads
Will fall, ourselves perhaps, the man beside,
Over the world the threatened, all who walk:
And could we mark the grave of him who died
We could write this beneath his name and date:
Underneath this wooden cross there lies
A Christian killed in battle. You who read,
Remember that this stranger died in pain;
And passing here, if you can lift your eyes
Upon a peace kept by human creed,
Know that one soldier has not died in vain."
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