I Saw A Veteran Yesterday!
(March 19, 2009)
|I saw a veteran yesterday whose eyes were focused on the past. I wonder if he
had fought on land, in the air, or on the sea. I spoke to him, yet he could not
speak to me. Did he serve on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor long ago? Or was he
a marine who fought for Iwo? Did he fly high in the sky in a B-17 or B-24 over
Germany's war-scared floor? Perhaps he wasn't there at all. Maybe he came ashore
on D-Day at Omaha Beach, and saw his best friend killed, whom he could not
Could it be at the Battle of the Bulge he rode a tank to face the German foe?
Since he cannot speak, we may never know.
He may have been a Merchant Marine who ferried war supplies to our troops on
If he were such, he saw much carnage from the Wolfe-Pac U-Boats, which left few
He may have seen his ship-mates floating on the foam, now a citizen of the Deep,
never ever to return home.
He could have been a Para-Trooper of the 82nd or one-hundred first, who jumped
into France from a C-47 Gooney Bird just prior to D-Day's morn. If so, he saw
thousands of his kind fill the skies, and, no doubt, heard their dying cries as
they lay dying or wounded upon the soil of France. (I wonder if France has
forgotten those cries of Para-Troopers, as they died!) It could be, that on that
day, fear took his voice away!
Could he have been a gunner on an island, whose name he has forgot? (Now the
name flashes before me, but left again ere I could write it down...back it now
comes; Guadalcanal; that place we came ashore early in the Pacific War.) Maybe
he sailed down "The Slot" in a Destroyer seeking out enemy ships in the dark.
Now Iron Bottom Sound could rob one of his voice, as well as his life!
But he may have served as a gunner on a famed PT Boat in the Pacific, though one
cannot be specific.
Could have been on Corrigador and became a Prisoner of War. Now that could take
away your voice, leaving another choice, for I know some POW's who were there
and have heard them speak, and have seen their stare - that same stare I saw in
the eyes of an old Veteran as he sat in his chair with wheels! Oh, America, do
you care about old veterans who sit in that strange chair?
The distant look of those eyes I saw broke my heart and made me wish that some
comfort I could depart!
I wonder if this old Vet was a tail gunner on a B-29, flying out of Saipan, or
Tinian, for his frame was small. Perhaps he saw a companion B-29 fall from the
sky, taking with it eleven men to die in the yawning mouth of The Pacific, with
no Super Dumbo to call a sub in time. Gone are they, with the Mighty B-29, never
to land at Iwo Jima or Tinian. Perhaps he died inside that day though his heart
goes on pumping blood, and has continued for all these years!
Or perhaps exploding flak over Kobe or Tokyo took away his voice, though he's
still a man. How many Purple Hearts lie dusty in some bedroom drawer, earned by
him on some flying mission from Saipan or close-by Tinian, of that War so long
ago? I cannot know. I rather think that he could fire a .50 caliber in quick
succession, at nine O'clock or at four. Did he down a Zero, a Betty, or a Zeke?
This starry-eyed man could have been a gunner freak!
His machine gun, against The Rising Sun, may have saved his crew and a Mighty
B-29, which survived to fly and fight again, from its place high up in the sky.
Could I have seen him as a younger man on some strange-sounding Island land in
the Blue Pacific? I'll never know who he is or what he did in WWII, so long ago,
for he cannot talk, nor can he walk, for he looked "at home" in that chair on
wheels. I wonder just how he feels and "if he feels" as he sits in that chair on
He sleeps tonight in the desert City of Albuquerque - or maybe he's awake, like
me, long before the rising of the sun, thinking back to the war we won. The
nights are long and often lonely for old Vets of WWII, at least for me; how
But the War has been won - and at what cost, for some Vets cannot talk and some
cannot walk, and some have not come home, and never shall, for they are lost.
America, count the cost!
C. Douglas Caffey
C. Douglas Caffey is a disabled veteran of WWII. He
served (1944-1946) in the 509th Composite Bomb Group,
58th Wing, Air Photo Unit, 20th Air Force, United States
Army Air Force. It was the 509th who dropped the atomic
bombs on Japan and did the atom bomb tests at Bikini in
the Pacific. A chronic sufferer of PTSD since WWII, Doug
is a former college dean. He started writing poetry
several years ago and though he doesn't claim to be a
poet, he does claim to write from the heart.
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