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The Letter Home: A Soldier’s Story

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By Ken Begley

 

My God, my God, where has the time gone.


I passed over my 37th year of membership in the military this year. Nine years are active duty with another 28 years in the Army Reserve.
You know what makes me really feel old?
It’s this.
I saw a small ad in The Sun last week on page B5. Fred Lanham Real Estate announced that Troy Trayner recently joined the firm. It said that Troy was a retired state trooper and also retired from the Naval Reserves.
I knew Troy when he joined the Army Reserve way back in the 80s. He later switched to the Naval Reserve when our unit was inactivated in 1990. I already had in about 11 years of service when he got there out of high school and enlisted. Now he’s retired and I’m “still on patrol.”
Boy, that made me feel ancient.
The other day I heard from another “old soldier.” He’s Washington County’s Mike Wheatley.
There’s a big difference between Mike and myself. He was more of a soldier than I will ever be.  Mike served his country well in Vietnam back in the 1960s. As far as war goes, I would describe that place as a hell-hole city. I apologize for my language, but it seems appropriate from what I’ve heard from many ex-soldiers.
The Wheatleys are known as a strong, tough family in these parts. Mike, of course, is that as well.  But Mike has a different side to him. He’s a very religious man who takes his belief in God almighty seriously.  I’ve talked with him before and he’s not ashamed or embarrassed to mention God as his savior.
I envy his faith because I so often stray from the path that I’m afraid I might miss heaven. Say a prayer for me and my family Mike, OK?
Anyway, Mike gave me some poems the other day that were over 40 years old and cut out of the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper. They came from soldiers, sailors, and airmen serving in Vietnam at that time.  I found one by Sgt. Michael P. Kiefer, 460 AEMS CMR1, that I liked a lot.  I hope you do to.
 
A Letter Home
Save all your pity for others,
Waste not your tears on me.
Rather weep for the heart-broken mothers
And the brave who are no longer free.
As you sit by your fireside and ponder,
And think of your soldier so dear.
Who fights far off yonder
Don’t build a wall of fear.
Pity the maimed and the blinded
The men who early must return.
Forever while life stays reminded,
Of the crash, the cut and the burn.
Remember when fear reached fingers,
To tear at your heart and your mind.
And doubt sneaks in and he lingers,
Driving you mad and half blind.
Ours is a cause that is mighty,
And ours is an Army that’s proud.
Our aims are not hazy or flighty,
Our heads are forever unbowed.
Ours is an aim both gracious and right
And ours is an arm that is strong.
Ours is a sword that is swift as light
To vanquish the legions of wrong.
We don’t care for the devil,
Or anything else in our way.
For Destiny’s pointing her finger,
And courage will yet win the day.
To save all your pity for others,
The child whose daddy is gone.
And the widows and the heart-broken mothers,
Who see no more hope in the dawn.
Waste not your pity on soldiers,
We’re ready if need be to die.
The man on the ground, the man on the ship,
And the man in the far blue sky.
If we should die, why sorrow?
Our glory shall never die.
For high in the skies of tomorrow,
The banners of freedom will fly.
 
Well, I guess that’s all I have.
Pray for peace in the world but let’s all start with our own homes.
Take care my friends and have a happy Thanksgiving.