Sunday, July 29, 2018

July 29: A Little Story, Armistice 1918, a Hero, "In Memoriam"

Greetings, friends.

I just returned from a little sojourn in Calumet, Michigan, where I performed in The Red Jacket Jamboree at the Calumet Theatre.  It was a wonderful weekend, working with a lot of musicians and artists and actors who have become really good friends of mine.

Usually, on Sundays, I include a Classic Saint Marty post.  Today, I'm not going to do that.  Instead, I want to tell you a little story . . .

One of the shows we did last night in Calumet was a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice that ended World War I.  I found the entire experience profoundly moving.  There was music from the era.  News from the era.  I did a tribute to Wilfred Owen, one of the greatest poets of the war.  Read one of Owen's poems.  And I read a poem of my own that I wrote on Memorial Day many years ago.

At the end of the performance, I was a bundle of emotions.  As I was standing near the stage, speaking with my family afterward, a man approached me.

He was probably in his late sixties, large and bearded.  He was wearing a leather vest that you might see on motorcyclists.  On the vest, patches were sewn.  Some were military patches, identifying the man as a Vietnam War veteran.  He was obviously struggling to control his emotions, but I could tell he was close to tears.  His face was red, and his eyes were wet.

We looked at each other for a few moments, and then I said, "Thank you for your service."

He nodded and said, "I want to thank you for that poem."  He stopped, started crying, then regained control of himself again.  He pointed to a patch on his vest.  "I lost a lot of buddies over there . . . and . . . I just want . . . to thank you for that poem."  And he started crying again.

I nodded.  Put my hand on his shoulder.  He continued to cry.  Then, I reached out and hugged him.

After a few moments, he took a deep breath and stepped back from me.  "You don't know how much that meant," he said.

I looked him in the eyes, and I said, "Thank you for coming tonight."

He nodded, turned, and walked up the aisle.

So, tonight, I'm feeling incredibly humbled by my encounter with that gentleman.

Saint Marty is thankful he met a real hero last night.

Here is the poem:

In Memoriam

I take my two-year-old son
To the cemetery this Memorial Day,
Walk him around gravestones
As local war veterans conduct
A service solemn as evening rain,
As a high school band plays
Stars and Stripes Forever,
As the local Methodist pastor
Talks of ultimate sacrifice.
I remain a respectful distance away
So my son's screams won't
Disrupt the placing of wreaths,
The recognition of the Gold Star mother,
A woman whose son bled
To death in a jungle over 40 years ago.
On this day, in this place,
Her grief is fresh, delicate
As the white rose pinned
To the lapel of her jacket.
I lift my son into my arms
When I see the honor guards
Shoulder their rifles and aim.
I whisper in my son's ear,
Warn him of the noise to follow.
He still flinches, jumps
When the guns crack.
Seven of them.  Three times.
I hold my son close, as if I need
To protect him from some unseen
Enemy.  The trumpet begins
To play for the dead.  My son squirms,
Wants down, wants to run,
Collect fistfuls of dandelions.
I struggle to keep him still
Until the music ends,
Until the horn's last notes fade
In the gray morning.  My son
Kicks, pushes, yells until even
The Gold Star mother turns, looks
At us.  I surrender, put my son down.
I watch him race away from me,
Laughing among the stones,
The rows of waving flags.
Happy.  Free.

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