Short Stories and Poems


JUST A COMMON SOLDIER
(A Soldier Died Today)

by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.

And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.

He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.


Subject: A FIGHTER PILOT RESPONSE

This happened in Phoenix. Understand the first letter is a complaint to Luke AFB and the second is the response from the senior officer.

Complaint:

A wake-up call from Luke’s jets

Jun. 23, 2005 12:00 AM

“Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base:

Whom do we thank for the morning air show?

Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 a.m., a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune!

Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns’ early-bird special?

Any response would be appreciated.”

The reply is classic, and a testament to the professionalism and heroism of the folks in the armed services. The response:

Quote:

Regarding “A wake-up call from Luke’s jets” (Letters, Thursday):

On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt Jeremy Fresques.

Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day.

At 9 a.m. on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend.

Based on the letter writer’s recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I’m sure you didn’t hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son’s flag on behalf of the president of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured.

A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects.

The letter writer asks, “Whom do we thank for the morning air show?”

The 56th Fighter Wing will call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

Lt. Col. Scott Pleus
CO 63rd Fighter Squadron
Luke Air Force Base


Information presented by SFC (Ret) David Hack. Hack volunteered for service in Vietnam in 1968, joining the 1st Infantry Division. He served as a sergeant with the Big Red One in Lai Khe, Vietnam. Hack received the Purple Heart for major combat injuries, and spent the rest of his military career as a recruiter for the US Army in Akron, Ohio.

Totals

9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam era from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975.

2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam.

240 men were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

Of Those Lost

The first man to die in Vietnam was James Davis, in 1961. He was with the 509th Radio Research Station. The Davis Station in Saigon was named for him.

Five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old.

The oldest man killed was 62 years old.

58,148 were killed in Vietnam, 75,000 severely disabled, 23,214 were 100% disabled, 5,283 lost limbs and 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.

Of those killed, 61% were younger than 21 years old.

11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old.

Of those killed, 17,539 were married.

The average age of the men killed: 23.1 years.

Veteran Successes

Vietnam Veterans represented 9.7% of their generation.

Vietnam Veterans have a lower unemployment rate than the same non-vet age groups.

Vietnam Veterans’ personal income exceeds that of our non-veteran age group by more than 18 percent.

87% of Americans hold Vietnam Veterans in high esteem.

There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam Veterans and non-Vietnam Veterans of the same age group (Source: Veterans Administration Study).

Vietnam Veterans are less likely to be in prison – only one-half of one percent of Vietnam Veterans have been jailed for crimes.

85% of Vietnam Veterans made successful transitions to civilian life.

97% of Vietnam Veterans were honorably discharged.

91% of Vietnam Veterans say they are glad they served.

74% say they would serve again, even knowing the outcome.

Many Still Missing

As of April 14, 2017, there are 1,592 Americans still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War across Vietnam (671), Laos(275), Cambodia(42), and China(3).

Vietnam Combat Area Casualty File

The Statistics in the Combat Area Casualty File (CACF 11/93) show an average age of death much higher than that of news reports.

The average age of the 58,148 killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years (Although 58,169 names are in the Nov. 93 database, only 58,148 have both event date and birth date. Event date is used instead of declared dead date for some of those who were listed as missing in action).

Deaths Average Age

  • Enlisted: 50,274, 22.37 years
  • Officers: 6,598, 28.43 years
  • Warrants: 1,276, 24.73 years
  • E1: 525, 20.34 years
  • 11B MOS: 18,465, 22.55 years
  • Totals: 58,148, 23.11 years

I DON’T KNOW

AS I LOOK IN YOUR EYES, I REALIZE THAT:

I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE

I DON’T KNOW YOUR NAME

I DON’T KNOW YOUR MOTHER AND FATHER

I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’RE A BROTHER

I DON’T KNOW YOUR HOME TOWN

I DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU WENT SCHOOL

I DON’T KNOW IF YOU HAD A HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEART

I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’RE A HUSBAND

I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’RE A FATHER

I DON’T KNOW YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS

I DO KNOW I HELD YOUR HAND AS YOU TOOK YOUR LAST BREATH

I DO KNOW YOU DIDN’T DIE ALONE.


Subject: CEMETERY DUTY

Bill Mills

CEMETERY DUTY…

“HERE’S TO THE CORPS” Semper If!

Cemetery Escort Duty

I just wanted to get the day over with and go down to Smokey’s for a few cold ones. Sneaking a look at my watch, I saw the time, 1655. Five minutes to go before the cemetery gates are closed for the day. Full dress was hot in the August sun. Oklahoma summertime was as bad as ever — the heat and humidity at the same level — both too high.

I saw the car pull into the drive, ’69 or ’70 model Cadillac Deville, looked factory-new. It pulled into the parking lot at a snail’s pace.

An old woman got out so slow I thought she was paralyzed. She had a cane and a sheaf of flowers, about four or five bunches as best I could tell. I couldn’t help myself. The thought came unwanted, and left a slightly bitter taste: “She’s going to spend an hour, and for this old soldier my hip hurts like hell and I’m ready to get out of here right now!”

But for this day my duty was to assist anyone coming in. Kevin would lock the “In” gate and if I could hurry the old biddy along, we might make the last half of happy hour at Smokey’s.

I broke Post Attention. My hip made gritty noises when I took the first step and the pain went up a notch. I must have made a real military sight; middle-aged man with a small pot-gut and half a limp, in Marine Full Dress Uniform, which had lost its razor crease about 30 minutes after I began the watch at the cemetery.

I stopped in front of her, halfway up the walk. She looked up at me with an old woman’s squint. “Ma’am may I assist you in any way?”

She took long enough to answer. “Yes, son. Can you carry these flowers? I seem to be moving a tad slow these days.”

“My pleasure Ma’am.” Well, it wasn’t too much of a lie.

She looked again. “Marine, where were you stationed?”

“Vietnam, Ma’am. Ground-pounder. ’69 to ’71.”

She looked at me closer. “Wounded in action, I see. Well done, Marine. I’ll be as quick as I can.”

I lied a little bigger “No hurry, Ma’am.”

She smiled, and winked at me. “Son, I’m 85-years old and I can tell a lie from a long way off. Let’s get this done. Might be the last time I can do this. My name’s Joanne Wieserman, and I’ve a few Marines I’d like to see one more time.”

“Yes, Ma’am. At your service.”

She headed for the World War I section, stopping at a stone. She picked one of the bunches out of my arm and laid it on top of the stone. She murmured something I couldn’t quite make out. The name on the marble was Donald S. Davidson, USMC, France 1918.

She turned away and made a straight line for the World War II section, stopping at one stone. I saw a tear slowly tracking its way down her cheek.

She put a bunch on a stone; the name was Stephen X. Davidson, USMC, 1943.

She went up the row a ways and laid another bunch on a stone, Stanley J. Wieserman USMC , 1944.

She paused for a second, “Two more, son, and we’ll be done.” I almost didn’t say anything, but, “Yes, Ma’am. Take your time.” She looked confused. “Where’s the Vietnam section, son? I seem to have lost my way.” I pointed with my chin. “That way, Ma’am.”
“Oh!” she chuckled quietly. “Son, me and old age ain’t too friendly.”

She headed down the walk I’d pointed at. She stopped at a couple of stones before she found the ones she wanted. She placed a bunch on Larry Wieserman USMC, 1968, and the last on Darrel Wieserman USMC, 1970.

She stood there and murmured a few words I still couldn’t make out. “OK, son , I’m finished. Get me back to my car and you can go home.” “Yes, Ma’am. If I may ask, were those your kinfolk?”

She paused. “Yes, Donald Davidson was my father; Stephen was my uncle; Stanley was my husband; Larry and Darrel were our sons. All killed in action, all Marines.” She stopped,
whether she had finished, or couldn’t finish, I don’t know. She made her way to her car,
slowly, and painfully.

I waited for a polite distance to come between us and then double-timed it over to Kevin waiting by the car. “Get to the “Out”-gate quick. I have something I’ve got to do.”

Kevin started to say something but saw the look I gave him. He broke the rules to get us there down the service road. We beat her. She hadn’t made it around the rotunda yet.

“Kevin, stand to attention next to the gate post. Follow my lead.” I humped it across the drive to the other post.

When the Cadillac came puttering around from the hedges and began the short straight traverse to the gate, I called in my best gunny’s voice: “TehenHut! Present Haaaarms!”

I have to hand it to Kevin, he never blinked an eye; full dress attention and a salute that would make his DI proud. She drove through that gate with two old worn-out soldiers giving her a send off she  deserved, for service rendered to her country, and for knowing Duty, Honor and Sacrifice.

I am not sure, but I think I saw a salute returned from that Cadillac.

Instead of “The End”…. just think of “Taps”.

As a final thought on my part, let me share a favorite prayer:

“Lord, keep our servicemen and women safe, whether they serve at home or over seas. Hold them in Your loving hands and protect them as they protect us.”

Let’s all keep those currently serving and those who have gone before,
in our thoughts. They are the reason for the many freedoms we enjoy.

“In God We Trust”


A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to and including my life.” 

That is honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.   

— Author Unknown


GOD’s Busy

If you don’t know GOD, don’t make stupid remarks!!!!!!!

A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU.One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated,

“God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you exactly 15 minutes.”

The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, “Here I am God. I’m still waiting.”

It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold. The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned and sat there looking on in silence.

The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, “What the heck is the matter with you? Why did you do that?”

The Marine calmly replied, “God was too busy today protecting America’s soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot. So, He sent me.”


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why? 21 steps: It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why? 21 seconds, for the same reason as answer number 1.

3. Why are his gloves wet? His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and, if not, why not? He
carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5. How often are the guards changed? Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to? For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5′ 10′ and 6′ 2′ tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30.

They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way.

After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.

There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone nor watch TV.

All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are:

President Taft,
Joe Lewis {the boxer}
Medal of Honor winner Audie L. Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII and of Hollywood fame.

Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.

ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC, our US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, “No way, Sir!” Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.

God Bless and keep them.

We can be very proud of our young men and women in the service no matter where they serve.

God Bless America


A *New* Christmas Poem

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
HE LIVED ALL ALONE,
IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF
PLASTER AND STONE

I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY
WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,
AND TO SEE JUST WHO
IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.

I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.

NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.

WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
A SOBER THOUGHT
CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.

THE SOLDIER IN IRAQ , LAY SLEEPING,
SILENT, ALONE,
CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR
IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.

THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
NOT HOW I PICTURED
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.

WAS THIS THE HERO
OF WHOM I’D JUST READ?
CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.

SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.

I COULDN’T HELP WONDER
HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

THE VERY THOUGHT
BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
AND STARTED TO CRY.

THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,
‘SANTA DON’T CRY,
THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;

I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,
I DON’T ASK FOR MORE,
MY LIFE IS MY GOD,
MY! COUNTRY, MY CORPS.’

THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
I COULDN’T CONTROL IT,
I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,
SO SILENT AND STILL
AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
FROM THE COLD NIGHT’S CHILL.

I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE
ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
WHISPERED, ‘CARRY ON SANTA,
IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE.’

ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
‘MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,!
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.’

This poem was written by a Marine.