Memorial Day tribute: ‘The Final Inspection’

As we reflect on another Memorial Day and on the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make for us all — all too often in this day and age minus the gratitude they deserve — it seemed fitting to allow one of those brave Americans deliver LU’s benediction.

The poem that follows was written by Sgt. Joshua Helterbran, of the 224th Engineer Battalion. The work, titled “The Final Inspection,” was originally posted to Facebook with little fanfare on July 18, 2010. Since then, it has been reproduced, both in text and in video recitation as it is here, countless times.

Initially, Sgt. Helterbran released the work anonymously. Recently, he added a second canto, which can be found here.

The Final Inspection

The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass,
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

“Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?”

The soldier squared his shoulders and
said, “No, Lord, I guess I ain’t,
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.

I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough,
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep,

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.

I know I don’t deserve a place
Among the people here,
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.”

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod,
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

“Step forward now, you soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well,
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.”

LU Staff

LU Staff

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