Joe Kirkup wrote this poignant essay upon returning from Joe's gravesite as part of an Alpha Association delegation in September, 2001. It took place twelve days after the Sept. 11th, 2001 Terrorist attack. It was published in the Perspective section of the NEW LONDON DAY Newspaper in Conn. on October, 21, 2001

       We all stood in front of Joe Noel’s grave, a ragged squad of battered
veterans from that one dirty war America can never seem to digest.  My
infantry unit collected enough Purple Hearts to tile Jane Fonda’s
bathroom floor.  Almost all of us are carrying shrapnel or bullet scars
along with that vague and smoky recollection of hell, the only vivid
images are the ones that keep renewing themselves in our dreams.  I
knelt next to his grave and sobbed like the pitiful, old jerk that I am,
seeing not the sunshine and green grass around me, but that ever present
snap shot of finding him dead on the ground and knowing I was the
instrument of his fate.
       Eighteen hours has passed and I’m still in jungle, dragging my gun
through the endless vines and bamboo, dying inside for just a mouthful
of cool water, lying bloody and terrified through the long hours before
dawn on the Cambodian border.  Asking myself over and over and over,
why.  I felt it might be better if Joe Noel was standing over my grave.
I think we’re about to do it all over again.  Send young men to fight
then sell them out at home.  Give them an enemy and a cause, but no
ammunition.  You can shoot one of these guys, but not one of those.  You can blow up that place, but not this one.  While you face death every day and fill body bags with your friends, we will withhold our real
power and sprinkle you into the fire at a rate of 700 a week.  Then, in
the end, we will give up, saying it was too painful for us.  When you
return as a failure, we will revile or pity you, whichever makes good
       It’s started already.  We are being told it is not polite to identify
the enemy by his religion or his nationality or his appearance or his
ethnic heritage.  We cannot risk putting his women or children in harm’s
way.  We are about to rename our campaign because it may be offensive to him. 

       Our enemy is assumed to be as good and kind and just as we,
temporarily misdirected by a sprinkling of evil souls, who, no doubt,
are themselves the victims of an unhappy childhood.  We must pick them
out, one at a time, and bring them to justice or at least counseling.  I
read that the great anti war machine of the sixties has stirred and
smelled the blood of patriots.  Let’s all rally to the cause of peace
and while we’re here we can smoke a little dope and impress the chicks
with our eloquent and righteous proclamations of non violence.
We have no guts for what must be done.  I want to pull Joe Noel from
his grave and open his eyes with my hands.  “Look at this Joe.  Can you
believe this?  Their gonna do it all over again!”

Joe Kirkup