I think it said, WW I, machine gunner
on the grave of an Uncle I never met.
A cousin of my grandfather was burned
and gassed in the trenches of France.
He never was quite right after that.
I got a picture somewhere of him.
Mr. Brooks still suffered from malaria
and Mr. Spalding spoke of his days as
a Fighting Sea Bee in the South Pacific.
Gail, a man at the beach, always smiled.
People said he must still feel lucky to
have survived the Bataan Death March.
As kids, we’d play patriotic songs from
old 78 records and our grandfather sang-
“Nothing can stop the Army Air Corps”.
He’d laugh after adding “But the women!”
He made Lieutenant Colonel and they gave
him a twenty one gun salute at his funeral.
My Dad’s brother, Walt was a marine,
a tunnel caved in and injured his back.
Jim Stewart was a medic in Vietnam,
he always seemed to have a scowl on
his face. Must’ve seen way too much,
is what people would say about him.
Eddie, a guy from work, used to tell us
about sneaking under the barbed wire
into the village to find a Mamasan who
had plenty of hot chicks for boom boom.
He’d be in the bed and have his rifle right
alongside him in case Charlie showed up.
Uncle Chuck was a Navy radio man but
he never really talked about it too much.
Art Martelli told me of his river boat,
Chieu Hoi and about trying to win the
loyalty of the locals by going up river
and handing out gifts of cooking oil.
Mr. Brown came back to Newark from
‘Nam and was still hooked on heroine
after twenty years. He’d always nod off.
John, another man at work, had a fifth
of White Label every day for breakfast,
he cursed in Polish, and cried sometimes.
Clayton sailed the world for decades
before coming back to his home with
faded green tattoos and stories to tell.
Cousin Joe was a recruiter who handed
out plastic combs and cheap Bic pens
labeled with “Aim High- US Air Force”.
Kathy was on a ship in the Persian Gulf,
I think it was a sub tender. I remember
our father wearing US Navy sweatpants.
Phillip, another cousin, went on three or
four tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I think he's home now from our latest wars.