My friend Rob Jackson, who is the Commandant for the Department of California Marine Corps League sent me this poem. It was written by the Headmaster of the Military Academy that Rob attended. It really brought home some memories. During the Christmas season of 1975, I was house sitting for Jerome and Sue King when I was overwhelmed with grief after reading the letters I wrote home from Vietnam. I sat by the fireplace with a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Creme Sherry, and one by one tossed the letters into the fireplace with some confabulated belief that would incinerate the memories. Not true. And I so lament doing that as it took years to recapture and release some of those sagas.
Forty-five years later, I have regained some of that youthful spirit, and the lost innocence. This poem by a WWII Veteran shows us that my experience is somewhat universal. Somehow that makes it more real as the healing is also universal.
A Marine Returns
Yes, he had lasted and was home again:
Wandering through the house, he touched each chair,
looking as if he wished he might regain
what it had meant, in memory, standing there.
The grin was much the same, though manner changed:
Mountains of death and beaches drowned in blood,
buddies who fell, all this and more had ranged
through endless years of bombs and battle-mud.
At last he paused beside his little store
of yesterday: old letters, pictures, tied
in boyish bundles, ripping each before
he tossed it in the basket by his side.
And thus I watched him tearing up his youth,
fumbling for something lost – perhaps the truth.
–Colonel Cullen Jones, writing about his son Gordon,
survivor of the third wave landing on Iwo Jima
“It is difficult / To get the news from poems / Yet men die miserably every day/ for lack / of what is found there.”