Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day - Let Them In

Today, I happened to be at the Bella Vista Wall of Honor during today's Veterans Day ceremony. (Today was Veterans Day, you ask? Yes, that was why you didn't get any mail and the bank or library was closed when you stopped in....)

A few years ago, after I started really getting into WWII history, I started trying to actually spend at least a few minutes every Vets Day and Memorial Day to slow down and actually think about the reason why we have those special days on the calendar. During one of the first years I tried to spend a moment reflecting on the importance, I think I sent this poem/song out to people in my address book. I thought I'd post it here again.

John Gorka wrote the song after the daugther of a WWII nurse in the Phillipines sent a poem that belonged to her mother to him. Her mother didn't write it, rather she found it somewhere in the hospital where young boys were dying by the truckload in horrific conditions. She hid it away for years and years. Several years ago, her daughter found it and sent it to John and he turned it into a song. It's one of my favorites and sure beats reading the words to a horrible song like "God Bless the USA" (Iike I had to this morning at the ceremony I attended)

Let Them In

Let them in, Peter
They are very tired
Give them couches where the angels sleep
And light those fires

Let them wake whole again
To brand new dawns
Fired by the sun not wartime's bloody guns

May their peace be deep
Remember where the broken bodies lie
God knows how young they were
To have to die

So give them things they like
Let them make some noise
Give dance hall bands not golden harps
To these our boys

And let them love, Peter
For they've had no time
They should have trees and bird songs
And hills to climb

The taste of summer in a ripened pear
And girls sweet as meadow wind
With flowing hair

And tell them how they are missed
But say not to fear
It's gonna be alright
With us down here

Let them in, Peter
During the end of the ceremony this morning, I was inside the actual Wall of Honor area where the bugler was set up to play taps at the end. The participants and all of the crowd were actually set up just in front of the actual memorial, and because of the design of it, they couldn't see where i was with the bugler. I was setting up to take a picture kind of from underneath him, and was sitting there when the color guard that I couldn't see fired their guns. It jolted me pretty good since I didn't know it was coming, but then it just reminded me of my grandfather's funeral.

My grandfather was a Lt. Col. in WWII and the Korean War. When he died early in 2001, we had a military funeral for him in Greenville, SC. I'll never forget watching the honor guard from Ft. Gordon in Augusta fire their guns and carefully fold up that flag. And I was sitting just a couple seats down from my uncle as the officer presented him with the flag and said "on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief and a gratetful nation, we thank you for a life lived in service to this country..." or something like that. And I'll always remember the look on the face of the young Lt. as he took 3 spent shells from one of the riflemen, and placed them inside the unfolded flag one by one as he said, "for duty, for honor, for country."

I'll never forget how I felt when they fired those guns. When the guard raised them up to the sky and pulled their triggers at the same time, it felt like someone stabbed me in the heart. It was a weird feeling; like being surprised and having your heart hurt at the same time. If you're a big fan of Jack Ryan movies, I probably looked the same as when Admiral Greer dies in Clear and Present Danger, and then Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan shudders as each salute is fired at his funeral.

So this morning, as those guns fired, it took me right back to that day in Greenville and felt like a surprise shot to the heart all over again.

I'm so thankful for all of those men and women who came before me and made my life possible. I don't know if I could do what the WWII generation had to do, without fanfare or celebration. And I certainly can't imagine what it was like to fight in an unpopular Vietnam War and return to boos and hisses.

I hope all of you took a small moment today to think about our veterans today, whether alive or dead, who have served all of us by dedicating a portion of their lives to service.

And from our family — Gramps, we all miss you. Thanks for everything you did. For all of us.