The Parade

A returned Volunteer describes a parade held during Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary celebration.

By Brant Miller - Peace Corps Volunteer, Honduras (1975 - 1977)

This poem is about the parade that took place from Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the 50th year celebration in 2011. 

I joined the Parade on the Metro to D.C.

The cars filled with returned volunteers of all ages

Trading stories that wove through the morning like fibers

Of a single flag flying with peace in the wind.

We walked a crooked path up the Arlington road

Drawn to the flame of a life ended too soon.

Paying respects, then onward to hear

Stories of the fallen in the nations we served

From parents who outlived the child but not the dream.

Tears fell, a choir sang, and knowing it could have been us

We were all the more grateful to gather that day.

The last speech was given, the first steps were taken

To walk down that hill and regroup by our flags.

Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, we hoisted our colors

Loyal to memories and friends we had made

And hoping our seeds took root and still grew

In Honduras, Lesotho, Nepal and Oman.

We smiled and passed those banners around

More sharing than marching, this army of hope

From the first ‘60s groups to the last fresh-faced grads

One-hundred and thirty-nine countries, one family.

We stopped and took pictures when we ran out of road

And vowed not to wait fifty more to return.

Very few generals have paid us much mind

But somewhere a Sargent still can’t stop smiling

This poem was entered in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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