Photo of Bill Barber with the First Force Reconnaissance Company, Third Reconnaissance Battalion in I Corps Vietnam in 1965-1966

Written by Bill Barber

Bill Barber served with the First Force Reconnaissance Company, Third Reconnaissance Battalion in I Corps Vietnam in 1965-1966. He stayed in the Marine Corps after returning from Vietnam and went on to serve in Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Panama Invasion.

Bill write the following poem, “All Purposed to Glory,” while “in a melancholy mood many years ago.”

All Purposed To Glory

They sang the song, drank the wine, and obeyed the bugle’s blow. Soldiers, heel to toe, shoulder to shoulder, marched into the gauntlet of kill and be killed.

Purposed to sever the future from the present, anointed in battle’s blood, cold steel in hand with boastful defiance and fearless dispose, these warriors of death’s resolve in cadence march. Willfully, they partake in the denigration of their humanness and the hell-bent damnation of their souls.

Uniformed in colors bright, medals shiny, plumes atop, these soldiers of the line violently engage with standards and pennants aflutter—a hued spectacular! Kinsmen all, consciously partaking in a ritual of horrific and sudden consequence, ravaging for Glory’s sake, they march.

From on high, one can see. Look! Down below, they form rectangular, square, and triangular. They form and reform. They dance to the bugle’s blow. Screams bellow. Cannonades fire hot lead indiscriminately vector with deadly effects opposing colors mesh.

Smoke blankets the battle’s bloody exchange. Reason lost, the deed done, the battle fought, mayhem’s impact laid upon the field; the dead, the wounded, the victorious, the defeated, nothing now but scattered evidence of Glory’s rendition, no matter the bugle blows.

The ancient sirens of warfare beget the innate instincts of humankind’s ferocity, ensuring those not born that the bugle will blow for them. And as with the bloody adventures of Caesar’s Legions, they too will march.

Locked in step to Lucifer’s resolve, paraded in full view, these pretenders, these provocateurs of destruction, these deceitful believers of God and country are, in truth, the passionate disciples of Glory’s quest.

To battle, they parade; dead men still strong, line linear and decorous, rendering a joyous sight, soldiers strutting to the beat of fife and drum; tomorrow’s dead-on pageantry. Cheers abound; the gleeful point; bright formations pass dead men they salute, dead men still strong.

Men who never were pretenders perpetuate Glory’s epic ruse. Spectators safely set apart from the arena, speaking among their peers of courage, duty, honor–the fight.

The true believers honor the call, for these are the doers that glory beckons, onward into the breach of cannon’s wrath. When the bugle blows, one onto all, all into one, in common, they charge into the dark unknown.

When I was young, Odin’s melodious siren beckoned, and I complied. As a Viking to plunder with a callous heart, I held them in my sights. I squeezed the trigger, igniting the effect, and tore flesh from bone, life to death.

For these bane deeds in Glory’s name, battle ribbons decorate. Beat the drum, play the fife, and let the bugle blow. The battle thunders its murderous mantra: All purposed to Glory’s quest–killing awaits.

But when the drum is silent, the fife and bugle aside, I can see their shallow faces; I look into their lamenting eyes. Dead men, they visit me. Alone at night, their icy gray-blue hands reach out and touch me. Dead men stare at me.

Blessed are the dead; their pain has passed. Their life is over; death is resolute, rendering their truth irrelevant. But for those who live besieged by the constancy of contrition, knowing what they cannot forget or undo.

To all those who marched to Glory’s quest, the truth is now known, though furtive, flesh to dust, bones to bare, spirit amiss, and soul suspended within the purgatory that hovers above the rows of white cross or star.

The truth now known: the fight well fought, passion yielded, blood dried, the smell of battle dissipated, brothers, sons, and husbands are now in the far away forever. Soon, the dead are as if they never were. Forgotten, dismissed, and distorted by the vagueness of eventual oblivion. For these, the bugle blows no more.

See them there, a sacred place, graves in mass, their final formation, Glory’s quest fulfilled. In life with fraternity, they served. In death, they lie cold and alone. They will no longer feel that gentle touch, a moonlight kiss, or the melodic sweetness of a lover’s moan. Gone to another are passion’s intimacies in the early morn. Gone is the soft pledge of “I love you” in the still of the night.

The sun will no longer breach the horizon’s hold nor melt into the blue of an ocean’s sunset.

The sound of drums, the fife, the bugle’s call, the charge into the dark unknown, all lost to the foregone, this is the fate of Glory’s soldiers, their life spent, their duty fulfilled, they are silent— Comrades, sharing in the forever nothingness the finality of Glory’s resolve.