Thank You For Your Service - A Poem by Jay Wenk

May 26, 2017

Jay Wenk recently won first prize in the 2017 Heroes’ Voices National Veterans Poetry Contest.  The contest was open to all veterans who have served in any branch of the armed forces.  The theme was The Soldiers’ Journey.  Poems about the experience of being in the armed services and/or being a veteran. 


by Jay Wenk


Gregory, nicknamed Raj,

from Bangor, Maine,

a vet of Iraq,

hooked up a vacuum cleaner hose

to his car’s exhaust.


These are today’s dead veterans.

There were others yesterday.


Living alone in a fifth floor walkup

on East 111th Street in New York,

Antoine raised and flew pigeons

from his rooftop chicken wire and slatted frame cage.

As he plunged into the backyard,

he took out several clotheslines.


There was Irv, Helen, George, Harold

Rennie and Harry.

Harold was gay, was called Roxy

among his friends, and he used a knife.


Frenchy never made it to the Post Office.

That’s where he told his wife he was going.

He drove head-on into the side of

a concrete bridge abutment

on Route 66 in Arizona, at 120 MPH.

It was a clear, bright morning.


A Lieutenant Carbonaro took his ’45 along

on a hunting trip upstate in North Dakota.


The medic who used to shoot up prisoners with

morphine, Carlos, saved up enough for himself.

He injected it while on leave, in Germany.

Angel, a guard at

our prison camp in the desert,

was a huge, smiling man, very friendly.

After discharge, he got a job as a warder

in a State prison near Biloxi.

He hung himself in his secondhand RV,

parked in a shady cottonwood grove.


There was Rudy, James and Eduardo,

living in ghetto flops in several different cities.

They combined booze and pills.


Reuben’s father was an Air Force officer,

so Reuben was born into it.

Everyone called him “Hey, Rube”.

When off duty from guiding armed Drones,

he loved to go up with the Paratroops.

On a flight yesterday,

he pushed his way past the jump master.


There was Bennie, Vera, Eli and Chris.

Chris was trained to defuse mines. Last evening,

on patrol, he jumped on one in plain sight.

The taxi driver who took Vera to

Chicago’s railroad yards reported that

she was drunk.


During the night, Juan, in Nevada, and

Eugene, in Colorado, both walked out

into their respective deserts,

stripped, in spite of bitter cold,

lay down, cut their wrists, and died,

looking up at the full moon.


There’ll be 22 more tomorrow.

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