Click on the arrow below and read my closing show segment from November 8, 2008…
I called Walter yesterday. He was a WWII veteran I had met last year at the VA. He told me he was on the 56 day Bataan death march. I had read about that march and could believe he was standing in front of me in line. He said he was 76 pounds when liberated by the British and they were brutal. He saw so many of his fellow captives die right in front of him.
I asked for his name and number and had tried twice to get him on the show.
I found out he died Saturday. I hadn’t read the obituaries or I would have known. I told his wife I would pray for her. I was trying to think of a good way to end the show today as we head to Tuesday and Veteran’s Day. This poem was sent to me and I do not know who authored it but I wanted to share it with you.
Crabby Old Man
What do you see nurses?…. What do you see?
What are you thinking….. When you’re looking at me?
A crabby old man, …. Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit ……. With faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food……. And makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice….. ‘I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice …. The things that you do.
And forever is losing …. A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not……. Lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding …. The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking? …. Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse…… You’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am… As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding…… As I eat at your will
I’m a small child of Ten… With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters… Who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen…. With wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now…. A lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty… My heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows… That I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now … I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide … And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty …. My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other … With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons…. Have grown and are gone,
But my woman’s beside me… To see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, …. Babies play’ round my knee,
Again, we know children … My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me …. My wife is now dead.
I look at the future … I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing… Young of their own.
And I think of the years… And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man……… And nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age…. Look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles… Grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone…….. Where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass… A young guy still dwells,
And now and again ……. My battered heart swells.
I remember the joys… I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living… Life over again.
I think of the years… All too few… Gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact… That nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people …. Open and see…
Not a crabby old man. Look closer…. See….ME!!
Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within…. We will all, one day, be there, too!
The best and most beautiful things of this world can’t be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart.
Remember when you pass a man in a nursing home he may have been one of the heroes that stormed the beaches in France to liberate the World from Adolf Hitler. He may have been on that death march. He may have been held in the Hanoi Hilton and tortured daily….
If you see someone with a WWII hat or Korean or Vietnam hat on …… Stop and shake their hand and say thank you. They gave us what we currently have and they gave us their freedom from bad dreams and night sweats and their futures so that we could have a life without those bad dreams and night sweats. We should appreciate them. We have lived in the freedom that they have provided for us. They are the greatest generation because they lived their life, when they came back, and knew that there was indeed evil that had to be fought and they did it.
I inherited that freedom and although my dad served in the Army and went to Korea I personally have not had to do anything. And although I have other relatives who have served… I personally have not had to do anything. I do not feel guilty about that and no one wants you or I to feel guilty about that but we should feel so thankful that there are people strong enough to serve.
The least we, who have not had to sacrifice ANYTHING, the least we can do is be grateful to those who have. That is so small and you will be surprised at how little our veterans expect. A thank you is really it. A nation’s gratitude. Really a small price to pay.
And it costs us nothing. Better yet, say thank you in front of your kids or grand kids. And they’ll ask you why you did that and you can tell them. Be assured they are not getting the teaching and training in their schools and we parents have abdicated the forming of their minds to the public schools.
The important things they’re being taught? … to use reusable bags at the grocery store to save the earth. Like that is going to save them when they face evil. Not a chance. They are being taught to recycle … a good idea that they can see at home. They are doing entire units on it now…in school. Soon we’ll have recycle teachers and it will be a whole class with its’ own state regents curriculum with made up technical scientific sounding names that the teacher will have a PHD in and we’ll have to call them doctors of recycling…or Doctors of waste management and they’ll have advanced degrees in Scientific Hybrids of Interdisciplinary Trash Tracking…that turns into an appropriate acronym….
Our silly people in this beautiful wonderful free society paid for with the blood of a million individuals….. freedoms protected today by amazing volunteers who risk their lives for us.
1/2 man 1/2/ boy
The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father’s, but he has never collected unemployment either.
He’s a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer.
He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.
He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.
He can march until he is told to stop, or stop until he is told to march.
He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient.
He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.
He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.
If you’re thirsty, he’ll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He’ll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.
He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands.
He can save your life – or take it, because that is his job.
He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all.
He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.
He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.
He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to ‘square-away ‘ those around him who haven’t bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking.
In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.
Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.
He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding. Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.
And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so.
As you go to bed tonight, picture this. . . A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.
Don’t let Veteran’s Day go by without saying thank you to someone.