Saturday, May 26, 2012

Remembering a Fallen Hero

According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States government did not begin sending the dead from World War II back home until 1947. For families carrying grief for a lost loved one, the opportunity to at last provide a burial helped them find closure. One of the soldiers returned was the first cousin of a teenager who later became my father. The soldier, killed in North Africa by a German bomber, was the son of a widow and attending his funeral left an indelible impression in the heart of a sixteen year old boy. Later my dad would himself elect for military service.
The soldier was buried in a church yard in sight of his boyhood home. My dad has remarked on this cousins's fine character and integrity. And as we all are prone to do, all these years later, he still ponders the loss.
 I’ve never known my dad to be much for verse, but that relative’s death has continued to stir in his heart all these years. So last year, a lifetime later, he commited his thoughts to paper in the form of a poem.

To honor my dad for his own military service and in memory of  his cousin, Melvin Green,  and all those who've given their lives for our country, I thought it appropriate to share a bit of my dad's poem on this Memorial Day weekend as we remember those who have paid as Abraham Lincoln said at Gettyburg, "...the last full measure of devotion..."

My dad during military service
The poem is  written from the my dad's vantage point while walking guard duty one night during his own military service.

"The bugle blows. Out the light.
I, one weary soldier tonight.
Remembering how not long ago
I stood at the funeral for a fallen  hero."

He hears taps played and remembers again the bugle sounds from his cousin's funeral, sees in his memory the soldier's boyhood home across the field from the churchyard, and feels again the sacrifice.

"That old house with boards astray
Is holding itself proud for this sad day.
It echoes the happy hours of birth;
Now it must watch as the man returns to earth. 

Does his baby cry still echo
In this country church from years ago?
Does the child’s foot print still show in the sand
Or has it given way for that of the man? 

That bugle, it cannot blow
As hearts here are breaking so.
For each,  this man has given all
May we never let our country fall. 

The bugle sounds. The final rites,
I’ll remember this all my days and nights:
When eyes will not close,
I’ll remember fallen heroes."

My dad, Steve Chitwood, on furlough from the Air Force,  February 4, 1952

Across the years, one of the ways our family has observed Memorial Day  is by tuning in to the National Memorial Day Concert . Always emotionally moving, it's held in Washington D.C. each year. I remember again words from Psalm 105, “...they fell heir to what others had toiled for...” And certainly every American is beneficiary of not only what others have toiled for, but what others have died for. May we be truly grateful.

Fallen Heroes Project
Honor the Fallen

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