Completely Subjective: David Young’s “The Dead From Iraq”

David Young’s “The Dead From Iraq” is a sentimental sonnet published in the 2007 edition of American Poetry Magazine. Young, born in 1936 in Davenport, Iowa, has received honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, and others. He has also been the recipient of the Pushcart Prize as well as a Witter Bynner Translation Fellowship.

I discovered this sonnet in the 2008 edition of The Best American Poetry. This title caught my eye right away. Personally, I’ve always been interested in war and war history, especially in literature and films. So of course I had to flip to page 142 and immediately dive into this poem. After the first read I was a little puzzled. My original thought was, “Okay, I’ve seen literature like this, but I don’t really get it.” However, these are the thoughts of many high school students after reading a poem for the first time.

I tried to think of any possible connection I could make to the war in Iraq that could maybe help me understand the poem. Nothing came to mind. However, like many Americans, I feel a sense of pride when reading about our nation’s brave ones. I always try to do any little thing for our soldiers. Whether it’s simply shaking their hand and saying thank you or sending small community care packages, any source of thank you brings satisfaction to soldiers and veterans.

Actually I can connect to the war in Iraq. My older brother Kyle was on the lacrosse team at the high school when they held a care package drive for a certain battalion in Iraq. It was the 1st Battalion 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment Red Falcons. The team gathered together non-perishables, clothing, shoes, and other such needs to send to the battalion. I helped my brother pick out the stuff we thought would be most useful to them. I remember us getting socks, gum, disposable toothbrushes, and various foods. I think the team kept this drive going for about three to four years.

The poem focuses on the lack of acknowledgment and care that soldiers receive when they return home. I think this is true, that veterans don’t receive the right amount of treatment when they return home. I’m not sure if there even is a “right amount” per se, because quite honestly people who haven’t been there don’t know what veterans have been through.

One way in which I’ve felt that I have impacted veterans is by participating in the “Sticks for Soldiers” lacrosse jamboree held at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. I’ve been playing in this jamboree since my freshman year. It takes place in November close to Veterans’ Day. Teams enter to play and make a donation. There is also a silent auction that is held to raise money. However the part I think is the most important is when the veterans speak. At some point during the event all play is stopped, and everyone gathers on the main stadium field. Usually there are two veteran speakers who share their stories. I feel that this gives them a sense of comfort and security where they have an open audience with whom they can speak.

To think that all this thought could be derived from a short 14 line poem would have never crossed my mind. I guess poetry is just like any other piece of literature I have studied. Anything can be taken from it, it just depends on someone’s point of view. To say that all veterans and soldiers agree with what this specific poem is saying would be completely ignorant. There may be soldiers that come back home unfazed and go on with their lives, others that come home who in their mind never actually left. Had I not partaken in the activities I did, maybe I would have a different view of soldiers returning home.

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