Vets memorial poem under fire

A controversial poem planned for inclusion the City/County Plaza Veterans Memorial has received enough criticism that the city’s Public Art Board is reconsidering it.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Public Art Board, according an article in this week’s Asheville Tribune by PAB member (and poem supporter) Bill Fishburne, the board’s chair, Barbara Cary, said she’s received e-mail and phone complaints about the poem, entitled “It is the Soldier,” since Xpress ran an article on criticisms of the poem earlier this month. Questions were also raised about the rights to the poem, written by veteran Charles Province in the 1960s. Fishburne reported that he had contacted Province, who had given his permission for the poem to be used.

Complaints about the poem, which attributes various rights to veterans with lines like “It is the veteran, not the minister/Who has given us freedom of religion,” called it denigrating to the other professions it mentions. Several veterans, including Fishburne, said they found the poem beautiful and that the material had already been approved.

Cary tabled consideration of the poem until the board’s next meeting.

— David Forbes, staff writer


Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

35 thoughts on “Vets memorial poem under fire

  1. Annec

    I am glad that they are reconsidering it. I wrote e-mails to city council and county commissioners and called Pack Square Conservancy, but was never referred to the Public Art Board. I find the poem somewhat frightening in its tone and message.

  2. DonM

    What is somewhat frightening about the poem’s tone and message?

  3. Gordon Smith

    Obsequious question, Mr. Yelton.

    The poem does a nice job honoring the soldier. The others it references are evidently held in contempt. The minister, the reporter, the poet, the campus organizer, the lawyer, the politician, and flag burners are equated and subjugated to a military vision.

    I’m sure there’s another perfectly good poem the memorial committee can choose to honor soldiers without dishonoring others.

  4. Dionysis

    Contrary to the tone of the poem, it was not the veteran that “gave us” any of the things enumerated. One could persuasively argue that veterans helped the country to maintain and preserve these things, but ‘veterans’ did not formulate the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights or anything else identified.
    Veterans should be honored for their contributions, but not for the efforts of others.

  5. DonM

    Veterans, as a group, also include those that “gave” us the ability to use our great Constitution in becoming a nation.

    Much, much more than merely “maintain and preserve these things.”

    Without the original veterans, there’d be nothing to maintain. Don’t ever forget that.

  6. travis

    I take issue with the poem because it implies that without the military, we would not have freedom, as if we rely on the military to “give” us these things rather than “protect” them. It implies that we are a miliary state governing by the rule of the gun and the beneficence of the military junta rather than a state governing by the rule of law and the power of the people. The people should thank the military for protecting them, but not for giving them their freedoms. The military should thank the people for housing them, feeding them and equipping them during both times of war and times of peace. If the people so wish, they can disband the military and fire the commander in chief. Never forget that.

  7. Chuck Connors

    Veterans have earned their citizenship. Our citizenship can never be taken away. All others have been given it, provisionally, contingent upon their votes and their huzzahs to the Party in power.

  8. DonM

    The poem implies nothing of the sort. That is your inference. To, unfortunately, repeat myself, without the original veterans of the Continental Army, we wouldn’t have our country much less any freedoms outlined in the Constitution. You do see that, don’t you? That’s what I said to “never forget.” It all flows from that.

    Subsequent protections of those rights and privileges have been secured by our veterans through the years.

    Military junta? Please, your rhetoric is so SDS.

    And, if the we (not “the people”) so wish we (not “they”) can become the southern province of Canada, too. That’s as ridiculous as your statement about disbanding the military.

    We DO however , routinely “fire” the CinC every 4 or 8 years.

    So you see, it IS the veteran that has secured these freedoms that WE the people enjoy so much.

  9. Nam Vet

    Of course the framers of our Constitution deserve credit for starting our great country. I do believe there are many monuments to them, primarily in Washington DC. This memorial is for military veterans. Putting your life on the line to protect the freedoms put forth in the US Constitution deserves special tribute. I bow to those who have served us and risked life and limb to keep us free. Thank you veterans of the US Army, the US Navy, the US Marine Corps, the US Air Force, the US Coast Guard. Brave men and women, you will not be forgotten.

  10. shadmarsh

    The fact that this “poem” is just dreadful honors no one. All it succeeds in doing is reminding me of Nazi propaganda.

  11. DonM

    Ladies & Gents! We have a winner!

    “shadmarsh” has just invoked Godwin’s Law and thus wins the dubious distinction of being “that person.”

    “Godwin’s Law
    /prov./ [Usenet] “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin’s Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups.”

    Congratulations, shadmarsh, you got an encore?

  12. Nam Vet

    Ah the ignorance and ingraciousness of freedom leeches like shadmarsh. Say shadmarch, did it ever occur to you that if the US military hadn’t defeated the REAL nazi’s in WWII that you would be speaking German and slaving away in a forced work environment? Probably not. You don’t give the impression you think much beyond the anti-American bilge you have been indoctrinated with. People who see others as nazis are projecting what they themselves are. You don’t like it here, move on. Try Cuba. Of course there, if you whine or show disrespect, you land in jail. But somehow the visual of that lesson is rather pleasing right now. :)

    God bless our veterans who gave their all so that even people like shadmarsh can spout off and not land in jail for it. Hopefully he will learn to appreciate what we have here.

  13. NCHarleyHardtail

    This poem is perfect! As a Vet I can’t beleive that statements like someone saying it reminds me of Nazi propaganda. I think you are clueless in your comparison. What you may have learned in whatever learning institution you attended and I use the word attended because a informed person explores both sides of an isssue before spouting off instead of rolling with the flow. I would invite you spend about a week at the Asheville VA and get a real education. Ask those Veterans what they think of the poem and a momunment honoring people who took an oath of commitment to uphold the sacred documnets written by our forefathers. In simple terms for the people who are supposedly in charge of this desicion about this acknowledgement of Vets. Imagine where this country might be right now IF Hitler won. Imagine if 911 this whole country was taken over. Artists usually have great imaginations. I know as musican I have used mine about what if. So the next time you want to make a Veteran take a back seat, you really need to think about who the stand up women and men were that kept these freedoms in check. Right or wrong we are all human and we all make desicions. Some choose to serve some some choose a different to path. Just remeber those who served made sure you have that PRIVILAGE!! Just my half a cents worth! Thank A VET!

  14. shadmarsh

    My original question, which none of you answered, is how does a poorly written poem honor anyone? This is a awful piece of writing. There are many many fine poets who are also Vets whose work could have been choosen over this piece of garbage.

  15. nam Vet

    Well said, NCHarleyHardtail. Thank you. Looks like you may have partially melted the ice that surrounds shadmarsh’s heart.

    God bless our veterans!

  16. DonM

    If you read all the posts you may understand the poem. That you don’t personally like it has been noted.

    Your first comment frames your view nicely for all to see. There’s really not much else to say, is there, except to remember that veterans have and continue to protect everyone, from Eugene V. Debs to Lyndon LaRouche to you.

  17. shadmarsh

    Nam Vet,

    If you had actually read my original post instead of resorting to knee-jerk attacks on what you perceived to be my opinion on things that I never mentioned you would have noticed that I was advocating something that would more appropriately honor those that this monument seeks to honor.

    It is very easy to put up monuments and say you care about sacrifice and duty and freedom all those lovely buzz-words that rarely amount to much more than sloganeering as a way to cover up that fact that veterans are usually tossed aside by those same people who so readily and often use them for their own political gain once they have served their purpose (political and military).
    Wouldn’t the best way to truly honor veterans to make sure that they have health care, places to live, and the support they require once they return to civilian life? Or would that be to “socialistic” for you?

  18. Gandi Das

    Costa Rica doesn’t have an army – hmmmmm
    And I believe, they have never been invaded.
    Blessing to all.
    G Das

  19. Paul

    In all honesty the America envisioned by our forefathers does not exist. Our country was freed by war and someone had to fight those battles. Since that time we have fought many wars in the name of freedom. Those that do the fighting literally do ensure what freedom we have. The truth is war and battle is fought within our government offices and we don’t really have a say as to the outcome. It does not defer the truth, our veterans that lived through these conflicts did indeed ascertain the freedom we have. The poem is far closer to the truth than most people want to acknowledge. I am not a veteran nor did I ever serve my country in the military. I do however feel that those that have deserve the credit they are due. The law makers are politicians that tell us what we want to hear. They aren’t truly concerned for the most part about what is right or wrong or what is good for our country. They use scare tactics to play on our own fears as a tool to get elected. The people that actually fight the wars both alive and dead should be remembered for what did and do regardless.
    That’s my synopsis of this issue.

  20. DonM

    You are a very astute man. And, I don’t say someone is astute just because they agree with me. Thank you for your thoughts and clarity on this issue.

    Merry Christmas!

  21. NCHarleyHardtail

    Well the more this story goes on the more I keep considering forwarding the story to every Veterans Organisation in this country. Every Veterans Motorcycle Club, every Veterans publication,and Maybe that is what it is going to take for people to get a clear understanding. I am a Veteran and when I hear what this monument has gone through and the disrespect of people telling people who have served what to say and what not to say and what the Veterans monument has to look like is BUNK!! When you have taken a sworn oath and made a commitment to uphold it then and only then do you have a say so. It is like electing public servants you have to step up and regestier to have that PRIVILEGE to cast a vote to elect them. However, I do agree with you Shadmarsh. There is a lot of problems in the VA system. I know the Vets deal with it all the time. Example is illegals aliens come to this country they get way better treatment than Vets. They get tax breaks that the State of NC does not even give to a Veteran. Do you have any idea what it takes for Veteran to get health claim processed? Just about in all cases well over a year.If you served you then would totally get what that poem says. I hardly think it is not much to ask of the city of Asheville or the country period! One more thing Costa Rica Gandi Das what does that have to do with what we are talking about here?? Are you comparing Costa Rica to the United States? I respectfully do not see how there is any comparison. Just my half a cents worth

  22. Matt Mittan

    Wally Bowen and Bill Fishburne debated this issue on “Take a Stand!” today and took calls (4-5pm hour). Passions ran high at times. However, in the course of the conversation I offered a compromise. What if the engraving on the memorial was the oath of enlistment that all military members give upon entering the armed forces? Thoughts?

  23. Nam Vet

    Yes, thank you for the post Paul. Well said. Those that oppose war need to hold the politicians accountable, not our military who just follow orders and have nothing to do with policy decisions.

    God bless the US military veterans who have kept us free, even to the point of tolerance for those who disrespect their service.

  24. Good Morning Everyone,
    I am a published author and this poem was obviously written by someone who cares. Shadmarsh, I not sure who crown you king but your comments are not constructive to the discussion.
    After reading the authors poem several times, if I had been moved to write it, I would only make one change to his words, that better describes his intent.
    “It is the Veteran who MAINTAINED the Freedom of Religion,
    The Wife of A Veteran

  25. shadmarsh

    Dear wife,

    This grows tiresome. My objections to the poem are based on my own well informed aesthetic opinion (I have been publishing poetry and fiction–steadily– since my early 20’s, and more importantly reading and studying poetry since I was 12). Does that mean I am right– of course not. But that doesn’t mean that anyone else is either. This poem contains no image’s, no metaphors, no music. It is a series of statements. Can a series of statements be a poem? Yes, but it is my opinion (which you and anyone else are free to disregard without making assumptions about my motives and/or politics). I have no doubts that the person who wrote this “cares” but passion alone does not make for art. And for what it is worth I thought your changes actually made it worse.

  26. shadmarsh


    I think that that is not only a good idea, but far more appropriate and fitting than anything else that has been suggested.

  27. NCHarleyHardtail

    Matt I agree with your thought ,but I think this still should be a Veterans issue. The oath is good I agree It may give those who do not understand the commitment that goes along with the poem, but to tell people who TOOK A STAND for this country as you yourself did I think it is unfair to have to keep kissing peoples butts, because they do not like a poem that they went and did the time to uphold the freedom of speech! Hmmm today is Free For All Friday on Take A Stand should be interesting. Also I have began notifing Veterans around the country about this!

  28. DonM

    What you say about the Oath is true. And the poem captures the results of veteran’s service to the the Nation.

    I do not think it would be gilding the lily to have BOTH the Oath and the poem at the monument!
    The Oath to demonstrate the commitment that all we veterans swore to and the poem to renumerate the results of sacrifice.

  29. steve roberts

    It is not the veteran who crated the constitution, It was our founding fathers. It is the verterans who protect it. The minister is able to pray freely because the constitution grants him that right. So when the british came when we separated from the king did the constitution fight to protect its own freedoms? I didn’t Think so. It was the veterans. So arts council if you don’t like my memorial, don’t look at it. If i don’t like your art Im not going to look at it! SGT Steve Roberts U.S Army

  30. shadmarsh


    Just to be accurate: there was no Constitution “when the British came” The Constitution was a result of our separation from the British Empire.

  31. steve roberts

    Ok so my history is not up to par. I did some looking around and found that it was poets, peace activist and artist that gave out hugs and painted murals and read poems of peaceful bliss to the british when they invaded. That in turn provided the ability for our founding fathers to sit down with there hippy tea and clove cigs and meditate to come up with a viable paper known as the constitution. Wich I might add is still intact even after the artist, pastors, reporters and the protesters fought and died for so diligently to protect during every war/conflict the U.S has been through. So with that said maybe we should get some paint, shell silversien books, some of the itmes from the local art galleries, glue it all together and stick it down town.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.