Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How I Came to Write Poetry of War and Service in the Middle East

In June of 2010 I attended a Commander’s Conference in Moline, Illinois, at Rock Island Arsenal, where my husband’s Division was head-quartered.  The Commander’s wives were provided training in the skills of deployment survival, for we too serve and offer support whenever we can to the families of our nation’s heroes as they undertake the defense of the greatest nation the world has ever known.  It is an immense job, both for the Soldier, and for his family.  

At the conference two women spoke to our group, and never will I forget the impact they made on my life.  One beautiful forty-eight year old woman shared her story of losing her beloved Soldier.  It was a beautiful love story, a heart wrenching story of loss, and yet as she told it, we all knew despite the passing of her husband from this life to the next, she had known a love many never experience.

Through her tears and ours she told of her experiences both before his death and after as “the wife of a Soldier.”  She told of how she loved the life of the Army, how she loved being the devoted wife of a Soldier, and all that this experience entails.  She also shared the story of learning that her husband had lost his life in The War on Terror.  She told of how she had somehow known for around two weeks that her husband was never coming home, and how she had waited and watched for the Chaplain and an officer to come, as they always do, to bring her the news that had already began to steal over her heart.  She waited the news that he had “given his last full measure of devotion” for us all. 

The vision of her face streaming with tears, the earnestness of her broken heart, and sharing the joy that had been hers in a once in a lifetime love, will never leave me, and indeed haunted me until I needed to find the words to express what the experience had meant to me.  

When I was a little girl, my father read to my sister and me every night, and often it was poetry.  He is a veteran, although he says he does not deserve that title, as he never fought in battle.  He was a part of the occupation forces right after WWII, and almost died of malaria and its' complications, and later served in the Texas National Guard while I was a young child.  Those childhood memories of his reading to us each night before sleep are some of the sweetest of my life.  My father is giant of a man,  He loved being a Soldier, and if not for the love of my mother, and her need to be close to her large family, he would have been a "lifer." I had never written a word of poetry until I met the two women at this conference, heard of their losses, and then somewhere deep in my soul, I heard the whisper of my father's voice from childhood reading "The Road Less Taken," and I have not stopped writing poetry since..

The News

Oh Woman, Woman, why do you wait?
There stands no person at your gate.

Oh Woman, Woman, why is the tear in your eye?
He promised he would be home, bye and bye,

Oh Woman, Woman, why do you turn your ear?
What soft voice is it that you hear?

Oh Woman, Woman why does your heart lurch?
It is only a man coming from the church.

Oh Woman, Woman, I see there are two.
One in a green uniform with something sad he must do.

Oh Woman, Woman, now I know,
How hard will be the way that you must go.

Oh Woman, Woman, surely you remember,
That he promised love like yours is forever tender.

Oh Woman, Woman the wait is so short.
He has only gone before you for heaven’s report.

By Debra LeCompte

This next poem I wrote in tribute to the other woman who spoke at our conference, she had lost a son, and even as she attended our conference and spoke of the loss of her son, she had another son serving in Afghanistan.  Some women, have a strength which reminds me of one of my favorite books, East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, 

"I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible."

Oh War, Oh War How Sad To Say

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
You take our sons and daughters far away.
To subdue tyrants and those who rule,
With hearts so evil and ever cruel.

Oh War oh War, how sad to say,
Always there is a price to pay.
There born on shoulders bowed with care,
Comes the coffins of the young who dare.

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
Many are the tears of mothers that fall on that day.
When their dear child is finally laid to rest,
In the soil of their country for which they gave their best.

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
Too many are the children who cease to play.
Tears fall from little eyes which will never begin
To understand why they won’t see Mother or Father again.

Oh War, Oh War, how sad to say,
You take life’s one great love in your disarray.
No more in this life their cherished face to see,
The darkness of that hour bends the knee.

Oh War, Oh War, how sad to say,
Stray bullets that wind and find whatever target they may,
While turning and winding, an innocent victim take,
And those deadly spheres leave two in their wake.

 Oh War, Oh War, how sad to say,
Hearts of the courageous break as those shells betray.
Memories must be carried by those who are brave,
Of necessary deeds which make their souls rave.

Oh War, Oh War how sad to say,
Sometimes the best return with wounds from the fray.
They leave strong when first they depart,
Then come home and a new life they must start.

Oh War, Oh War, how sad to say,
Always again the ruthless will follow the same way.
Once more the call will go out
For those who know what warmongers are about.

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
The price of freedom is never stayed.
Pruning hooks and plows must be beat,
Into weapons your dread disease to defeat.

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
With words and pleadings greedy men will not be swayed.
Yet the promise will one day be made complete,
By One who to a cross was nailed by his hands and his feet.

Oh, War, Oh War, on that glad day,
The Son of God will come to lead the way.
The final victory He will take,
No more will sin sad hearts make.

Oh War, Oh War, you are going away,
Peace and happiness for all will come in your stay.
The lion and the lamb will together lie down,
And God’s praises we’ll shout, with a joyful sound.
By Debra LeCompte