Honor the fallen, thank the living

“Home of the free, because of the brave.”

Severely damaged during the Battle of the Coral Sea, the U.S.S. Lexington aircraft carrier was scuttled May 8, 1942, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Japanese.

In March of this year, the research vessel RV Petrel discovered the wreckage resting two miles below the ocean’s surface.

Monday, we celebrate Memorial Day honoring the memory of all who died in service to their country—including 218 on the Lexington. The official day for honoring all members of the armed services is Veteran’s Day, another deserving date set aside to pay tribute to those who have served their county in defense of freedom.

While we mark these important dates with extra respect, thanking all who have served is a practice in which everyone enjoying life in a free country should participate every day.

In that spirit, I’ll mark Memorial Day with a poem credited to a sailor who served on the U.S.S. Lexington. No mention was found of his name, or his fate. Whether we honor that sailor as one who died in service, or who was lucky enough to return, the poem illustrates, better than I am able to do, why we should honor veterans every day.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“Just a Simple Sailor”

He was getting old and paunchy,
   And, his hair was falling fast.
He sat around with his buddies,
   Telling stories of the past.
Of a war in which he fought,
   And, deeds that he had done.
In his exploits with his buddies,
   They were heroes, every one.
Tho’ sometimes to his neighbors,
   His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened,
   They knew whereof he spoke.
But, we’ll hear his tales no longer,
   For old Nick has passed away.
And the world’s a little poorer,
   For a sailor died today.
He won’t be mourned by many,
   Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
   And, very quiet sort of life.
Held a job, and raised a family,
   Going quietly on his way;
The world won’t note his passing;
   Tho’ a sailor 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 of their life stories,
   From the time they were young,
But the passing of a sailor,
   Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution,
   To the welfare of our land,
Some politician’s broken promise
   And, the cons of 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?
The politician’s stipend,
   And the style in which he lives,
Are sometimes disproportionate,
   To the services which he gives.
While the ordinary sailor,
   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 our Nicks, Jims and Johns
   Went to battle for one and all.
We know it wasn’t 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 really want a politician,
   With his ever waffling stand?
Or, would you want a soldier, sailor,
   Who has sworn to defend,
His home, his kin, and country,
   And would fight until the end?
He was just a common sailor,
    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 a serviceman’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles,
   That the politicians start.
If we cannot honor him now,
   While he’s here to hear the praise,
At least let’s give him homage
   At the ending of his days.
Perhaps a simple headline
   In the paper that might say:
Our Country is in mourning,
   For A Sailor Died Today.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Memorial Day and every day, remember our troops, living and deceased, in your actions and your prayers. Take time to say “Thank you for your service.”

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion (http://www.lightandchampion.com) and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers (http://www.tribnow.com).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s