Friday, June 29, 2007

Whisper 'Semper Fi'

I found this poem today at I know you will all love it as much as I do. Mr. Haugen, the author, has kindly granted me permission to post it here.

He was sitting on a park bench, hunched and looking low
It was hard to imagine how he'd looked, so long ago.
His beard was long and shaggy now; his sparse hair white as snow
But his steel gray eyes were piercing, and I turned away to go.

He looked lonely and forgotten, and maybe homeless too
Like life had dealt him a bad hand, maybe quite a few
He was probably abandoned by those who didn't care
I wondered what had happened, what drove him to despair.

He said, "Son, I'm a Leatherneck, of wars before your time"
His eyes grew still more piercing as he looked deep into mine
"Your uniform says you're a Devil Dog, the man I've waited for
And there's something I want to tell you -- things I've never said before."

The tattoos on his weathered arm read "Mom" and "Semper Fi"
"Let's sing our hymn together, son, once more before I die."
As we sang of Montezuma's halls and the shores of Tripoli,
The old man stood straight and tall, and he looked down at me.

"Bury me at Arlington; put an EGA upon my chest.
Tell all the world I died for them, that I was one of the best.
I was with the Fifth on Iwo, and I fought in Korea too.
During that ugly war in Vietnam, I stood proud, and cheered for you.

"Get me a straight edge razor, lad, and give me a good, clean shave.
I want to look my very best as I go to my grave
Cut my hair; shine my boots; let me borrow your best blues.
You have them back after I'm gone, and all my medals too.

"I don't want no flowers, an American flag will do
My life was lived and given for the Red and White and Blue.
Whisper 'Semper Fi' my boy, so loud that all will hear
Fire them rifles in the air; they're music to my ear."

As he told me his last wishes, I saw him standing tall
I could see the ribbons on his chest, in the dim light of the Mall
And as he closed his steel gray eyes, I thought about the Corps
He'd lived the life of a real Marine, who could ask for anything more?

"Whisper 'Semper Fi,' my lad," his voice lingered in my mind
I thought about all my buddies, those I'd left behind
Today, I'd met a real Marine, a hero through and through
Forgotten by his country, but not by me and you.
By Cordell Keith Haugen
Copyright 2001

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