Memorial Day

He was getting old and paunchy, and his hair was falling fast,
and he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in, and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors his tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly for they knew where of he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer, for ol’ Bob has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer for a soldier died today.
He won’t be mourned by many, just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary, very quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family, going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing, 'tho a Soldier died today.
He was just a common Soldier, and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, we find the Soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in the paper that might say:

“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING, A SOLDIER PASSED TODAY.”

I had the privledge of knowing one of the first 200 Navy SEALs…his name was Frank Herrington (As Casey used say…you can look it up)…it will be my shame that I didn’t get unlazy enough to chronical the times this American hero had…he was in Africa and saw Americans whooped by facists at El Quitar, he was on a ship in the battle that destroyed the Vichey French fleet (Nearly cost his life…he walked out of a radio room literally seconds before it took a direct hit), he was in Anzio, behind enemy lines shooting German Officers as a sniper…(he said it was obvious when their soldiers hated an officer because they would run up to them and salute…which was always a death sentence), he was in Europe…fought in Korea and Viet Nam…No author…not even Tom Clancy could write a book to even come close to the life this man lead…I listened to so many stories as he sat and smoked the unfiltered Camels that ultimately took him from us all…had I only a tape recorder or in my foolish youth considered that we might lose the treasure of this mans memory…I might’ve been able to share…
I’ll always treasure the moments and kick myself for not having the foresight for those who will never hear them…
I hope we all take a second and consider this and all the hero’s…real, non-media created hero’s our country has lost.

Dad was Navy - in Saipan-just prior to the dropping of the bomb in Japan. He was going to be part of the invasion until the decision was made to fly the Enola G ay. I rather think those countless Japanese sacrificed their lives so a million guys like my father didn’t have to give up theirs. And as a result, in a wierd kinda backwards way I’ve tried to live my life as though I was getting a second chance.

My uncle was Army - in Korea - would never talk about how he got the huge scar across his cheek. He was tough as nails and had a long career in one of the local steel mills. His favorite pastime was gardening…a seemingly self contradictory fact that didn’t go unnoticed by his family and friends.

Another uncle was Air Force - no stories for the nephews either…

I befriended an 83 year old World War II tank commander who lost the love of his life whom he married when he returned from the war. He had the Nazi flag memorabilia, a german ruger and his prize possession…a sword presented to him by the owner of a castle who met him at a crossroads and begged him not to blow it to smitherenes. As a member of Patton’s Army, the tank commander had orders to blow it up but against others advice had compassion on the man and drove right by. He lost several tank driver’s during the campaign and it troubled him greatly over fifty years later. After his wife’s death, at 83 he did what he’d been wanting to all his life…he learned to fly an airplane. I got one of the sadest phonecalls of my life when his son called to tell me he’d crashed while flying out of his home airport and died.

To me, these men represented the greatness of a generation without which we would not have lived such a life of comfort. None died on the battlefield but they all left a large piece of themselves there and at such an early age.

Thanks Coach Baker for the reminder.