Soldier at an Exhibition
In Green Beret he stands. With solemn steps
he moves past works regarded high enough
to hang here in this Institute of Art.
Esteemed enough he is to wear the Green
Beret, yet no one shows him due respect.
Quick silent looks askance at him we steal
and hope he doesn’t see we’ve noticed him
at all, for if we’re honest, nothing could
we do or say to recompense this lad
for what he volunteered to do, his heart,
his sacrifice, determination sheer.
And to what backward hell hole of the world,
and to what desperate situation had
this man and his few brothers just been flown?
And which of these a Frisbee nevermore will throw?
Which name still haunts his mind that came not home?
What gruesome scene plays out inside his head
as he now looks upon Seurat, this Sunday
Afternoon?  What former captive now breathes free? 
What would he say to us, who sit in peace
upon these sun-bleached limestone blufftops high
above the fruited plain; who gaze upon The River
wide, in leisure frozen in our own
Seurat; who sit and study art, and physics,
rocks and math and all the things that we
will soon enough forget as background noise?
These freedoms, gifts that we enjoy come at
a price of blood; not ours, of course, but his
and of his brother’s willingness to give
his all, “the last full measure of devotion.” 
I hear a voice that asks in silent prayer,
“Who now the price of his dear blood doth owe?” 
So clearly it is we who owe this price,
but how can we it pay? There are not words
nor songs nor speeches, poetry nor even plays
that we could sing or write or act that come
to equal that which has been given us.
All this he knows, our Soldier, now on leave.
What would he say, if only we could dare to ask,
but this? That we should not just spend our lives,
but know their worth, his sacrifice, and “Earn it.” 
Paul Lance Guernsey Player, Principia C 1983, © 2018
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 A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, George Seurat, 1884, The Art Institute of Chicago
 De oppresso liber [Latin], the motto of the U.S. Special Forces, “thought to translate to “To Liberate the Oppressed.” In actuality, the word liber is an adjective ‘free’ that could be translated ‘a free man,’ and ‘de oppresso’ would be more an overwhelmed man. The phrase would therefore be more accurately translated, ‘from a caught man, a free man.'”
 The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln, 1863
 Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, 1599
 Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg, 1998