Monday, May 25, 2009

In memory on Memorial Day

In Honor
by Vivian Gilbert Zabel

The building wall rose at a right angle
Parallel to the sidewalk where I walked,
On each brick a name embossed,
A name of each one who served
Through World War Two.
I always stopped and let my eyes
Search the bricks for a special epithet,
A unique brick that to my child’s mind
Glowed with extra valor and might.
“Raymond Gilbert - USAF,” it read,
For the father I still adored.

How many died, how many bled
So that we could be free?

A jet flies overhead toward
The Air Force base not many miles away.
I always stop and watch, imagining
The pilot, wondering if he’s alone
Or if he has someone to guide him,
Sitting in the seat directly behind.
Somewhere a plane plays hide-and-seek
Hopefully only with some clouds,
Where my son plots courses and rendezvous
Away from his wife and home,
All to keep us from enemy harm.

How many die, how many bleed
So others can be free?

What owe we to men and women
From past to the present,
Who gave and give up even life itself
To take up arms and stand a barricade
Between us and loss of liberty?
How can we e’er repay the debt
To those who gave their all?
We owe more than we can give,
But the only thing they ever asked
Was we simply say, “Thank you.”

Dedicated to Major Robert Lee Zabel, Jr. May 26, 2003.

My father joined the U.S. Army when he was seventeen and was a sergeant in the Army-Air Corp by the time I was born when he was almost twenty-four. World War II reached us slightly, since my father was on his way to the Pacific front a year later until my sister was born with serious health problems. They sent my father home to Randolph Field (which became Randolph AFB) for a brief compassionate leave. Some how he never made it back with his squadron to continue overseas, and he spent the rest of the war at Randolph. He stayed in the Air Force until the summer after I graduated from high school (in Limestone, Maine).

Saturday I visited his grave, with my mother's beside it, in Arlington Gardens just outside of Midwest City, Oklahoma. A small flag waved by his marker. Looking at all the flags flying across those acres of graves, I felt humbled yet proud.

Sunday morning, the pastor had all the veterans stand. Men of all ages stood all over the sanctuary, including my brother-in-law, Robert's brother two years older than he. Robert tore up his hand before he could be drafted, or he would have served, too.

My middle child and older son retired from the Air Force last summer. He gave twenty years for his country, and served many of them in dangerous situations.

I don't always agree with our government, but I've lived long enough and through enough different circumstances and cultures that I know our military is most often all that protects what freedoms we have left. Yes, talking nice to other governments and leaders and keeping the peace would be so nice, but turning the other cheek often means having our heads chopped off. Being a pacifist would be easy, but how many pacifists would live and have the right to practice their beliefs if someone else didn't do the fighting to protect them? I'm grieved so many people don't realize that peace at any cost has a very high price tag.

I worried and prayed for my son while he did his duty. I may not have known exactly what he was doing where, but I sensed when he doing something dangerous, when danger surrounded him. I prayed many a night most of the night. But I also knew that someone's son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother had to do the dirty work. If my son had not returned, alive, a part of me would have died. God was gracious. It could have been my son who returned in a box, it could have been him so easily. I'm thankful it wasn't.

I Am ...
by Vivian Gilbert Zabel

I am an American, one born in the United States.
Although I traveled across both Pacific and Atlantic,
I prefer this side of the mighty “ponds.”

My country isn’t perfect, but close as can be found.
I’ve seen and tasted the life in other places;
Our country offers more than most the world.

On Sunday morning, I can still worship my God
Where I wish and how I wish, within reason:
I can’t harm myself or others in His name.

Schools exist for all, rich or poor or in-between.
If one wants an education, it is there for the taking.
Children aren’t denied because of circumstance.

If I wish or can work, employment is here,
Maybe not the elite position I may desire,
but jobs flourish for those who will labor.

I can be comfortable, when compared to
What awaits those in other, needy nations.
I dream of wants, but needs are met each day.

When I see the red, white, and blue flare
As the wind whips in the gale of life,
I stand proud with a tear in my eye.

When I watch our soldiers march by
Or in visions of them in war, I cry with pride,
As I give thanks and pray for their safety.

My father went forth to fight in WW II,
My son in more current wars and conflicts.
They gave, like others, so that we all can say:

I am an American, a citizen of the United States,
And I am proud.

"In Honor" and "I Am ..." copyright 2003 and 2007 by Vivian Gilbert Zabel



Deb Hockenberry said...

My father was a staff sargeant in the Army Air Force in WWII. I always have strong memories of him in this time of our patriotic holidays. He was a spotter (he manned the machine gun at the back of 747 airplane). My niece just got back from Iraq. She was not far from Baghdad when that city was really bad. Luckily, she came back in one piece & not in a box.

unwriter said...

Thank you for this. I know what it feels like to see all this fighting and knowing those I love are a part of it.

Another great post can be found here.

Cheryl said...

Wonderful tribute, Vivian. My father was a peace time Marine and my younger brother served overseas in the Navy.

It is hard to imagine what our servicemen and women go through during times like these, with the Iraq War going on. I don't know that I could easily see one of my own children off to fight, but I would never stand in his or her way if he/she felt that was what he/she must do.

Every man and woman who has served or is serving deserves our utmost respect and admiration. It is not always an easy choice; but their willingness to make it is one of the most admirable decisions in the world.


Vivian Zabel said...

Yes, Deb, you understand what I mean.

I visited Joyce's blog and left a comment, too.

Cheryl, I didn't stand in my son's way, although I spent all those sleepless nights. It was his choice. My other son was never interested, but he was proud of his older brother.

Rena said...

Beautiful post, Vivian.

Beth Bence Reinke said...

Too choked up to sepak after reading your poems, Vivian, but I can type. Thank you for the moving post honoring your own and all of those who serve our country.

Vivian Zabel said...

Thank you, Rena and Beth.

I don't believe my country is right always, but I believe my country is better than anything else I've found.

God Bless America.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Poetry always seems an excellent way to address the painful. Thank you, Viv.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a lovely tribute to our brave men and women who fought and still fight to keep us safe. My brother joined the army when he was 17 and was stationed in Egypt where he met his beautiful wife.

The men and women in our church who had served in the military also stood up to be recognized. We pledged the flag and sang America.

My mother's foster cousin served at Iowa Jima. He's 92 now and the sweetest little man.


Vivian Zabel said...

I wonder how many people have no idea what it's like to have military people in their close family?

I wish everyone who does have family who served or are serving would write about that person's experiences and impact.

Joyce Anthony said...

Beautiful post, Vivian!! Like you, I don't always agree with our country-but I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. My birth dad served in both the Army and the Navy (both in Peace time). The man I claim as my dad served in WWII--when he was a mere 18. Both grandfathers and my great-grandfather also served in the Army--WWI and WWII, depending on which on. Before that, other generations served--my original relative here lied about his age to serve in the Revolution. I've also had relatives spend time in Andersonville during the Civil War.
Cousins have gone to Vietnam and Iraq.
I can't honestly say that any have returned unchanged -- many left home mere boys, and all returned as men.

Charlotte Phillips said...

Thanks Vivian for this tribute and thanks to all our men and women who have served and who continue to serve our nation.


Donna M. McDine said...

Vivian...your poems and tribute are touching. Thank you for sharing your inner most thoughts. I am deeply touched.

Best wishes,
Donna McDine

Heidiwriter said...

Lovely thoughts and poetry, Vivian. My dad was a WWII veteran and my husband is a Vietnam vet.

Thanks for sharing your memories.