It’s the anniversary of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima today.
I wonder how many people know that.
I wonder how many people take the time to thank veterans and reflect on the sacrifice they made.
I wonder how often we consider how different the world would be if they hadn’t died for us.
Although my great-grandfather wasn’t on Iwo Jima, he still fought in World War II. He still suffered as a prisoner of war, still was away from his family – his son, wife, and twin daughters. I never really knew him that well, but I loved hearing about how he fought in WWII, whether from him or others.
Papo was in the 78th Division, which fought at Battle of the Bulge (we got to go to a monument for it in Belgium this summer, and there it was, the badge of the 78th carved into a pillar with those of other divisions.)
Papo, however, didn’t fight at the Battle of the Bulge, because the day before he’d been taken prisoner. The rest of his division had been searching through houses, but he and 6 others went on ahead with the tanks. They were given the chance to surrender or be shot.
All six chose to surrender.
He was a P.O.W. for five months, then went home.
Years later, he, my grampa, gramma, mom, and one of my aunts visited the city where he was a prisoner.
He died around five years ago, but the legacy of the men who fought for us still prevails.
I don’t claim to know or even understand what was going on in my grandfather’s head while his dad was gone. But I can imagine it was awful.
And so, inspired by Vision Forum’s movie, The League of Grateful Sons (and I’d like to add daughters as well!) I wrote this poem.
On Bloody Battlefields and Beaches
Daddy, where are you? With my cry in the night,
No dad by my bed, gone to war, mama said.
78th division, you said to me,
Told me about your big gun,
Far across the wide grey sea.
Daddy, don’t get killed please!
I miss you dad, come home again to Springfield.
Your letters to this boy can’t replace your love
Where is Belgium, dad? Is the enemy there?
The twins want to know, daddy,
When you will be home again.
Hear the sobs of my heart, of your son far from you.
War’s not a game anymore, I’m scared for you.
Where are your letters, dad? Has something happened?
Mama cries every night, dad,
Linda and Nancy, do, too –
Please tell me you are all right!
Endless days of waiting, Oh, daddy, daddy…
Where are you? Daddy, I need you here with me!
Is your body lying dead on some barren field?
Or are you like a caged bird,
Trapped behind metal bars,
Wings pinned so you can’t fly?
I hear them talking, daddy, Something about POW’s.
What’s that daddy? Does it mean you’re coming home?
A prisoner, daddy? Locked in a cold dark room?
Why’d you let it happen, dad?
Why can’t you get home from there?
A letter, dad, a letter! It’s been five months,
Now to know you’re alive, and coming home at last!
Were you scared, daddy, when the tanks rolled in?
When they said they’d shoot – or could you surrender?
Did you ever run? Would they have killed you?
When you worked, was it hard?
I missed you so much, dad.
Dad, don’t ever leave again.
Were you hungry? Or did they feed you very well?
But you’re skinny. Hurrah for mama’s cooking!
Then when the allies came, were you happy, dad?
Did you all sing, did you dance?
But now you’re home – I love you.
Now we’ll sing, and we’ll dance, dad.
With my beloved wife and my two daughters,
I look back on those days, thirty two years past,
As we gaze at the place you were held captive.
Daddy, now many more years passed,
My granddaughters are all grown,
You no longer on this earth.
I miss you, dad, but all you’ve done lives on.
Thank you, dad, for the price you paid for us,
The love you had,
That my granddaughters might be free.
Thank you, daddy, for your sacrifice.
I miss you, daddy,
But this home again is safe and free –
because of men like you
Who bravely fought and died,
On bloody battlefields and beaches.