Veterans Day 2019

November 11, 2019

Today is the day America recognizes her Veterans with pride and gratitude. Thanks to all Veterans regardless of Military Service or assignment. They all answered our nation’s call. Here is my simple tribute.

Veterans

Some are young and some are old
But they all have this to share,
When the Nation called on them
They were always there.

The Fight for the Throne

October 17, 2019

My wife and I recently had the privilege of visiting the Scottish Highlands and the Culloden Battlefield. There we learned the story of the battle and the history preceding it. In 1688, James VII of Scotland and II of England and Ireland, a Catholic and Stuart, was deposed by his enemies. The Jacobite Movement was thus born. (Jacobite comes from the Latin word, Jacobus, for James.) William and Mary, Protestants, were proclaimed joint sovereigns and parliament passed the Bill of Rights which prevented Catholics from succeeding to the throne. The Jacobites fought the government during 5 uprisings to try to restore a Catholic to the throne. In April of 1746, the Jacobites made their final attempt to put Catholic Bonnie Prince Charles on the throne of Britain. Their last uprising ended with the Battle of Culloden. The following poem tells the story of that historic battle.

The Battle of Culloden

In April, seventeen forty-six,
It was a dreary day
On Drummossie Moor,
Where Hell would be to pay.

The ’45 Jacobite Rising
Was near its climax there.
The hope of rebel victory
Was heavy in the air.

This was the fifth uprising
To crown a Catholic king,
And to revere the faith
That such a lord would bring.

Their hope, Bonnie Prince Charles,
A Stuart through and through,
A legitimate crown pretender,
And a Catholic, too.

For nigh one hundred years
The Jacobites had strived.
And now, on this moor,
Their moment had arrived.

Led by the Bonnie Prince himself
The Jacobites were proud.
Full of Highland self-esteem,
No clansman would be cowed.

The Redcoats were led by royalty.
A cousin of Charles, in fact.
The young Duke of Cumberland
Relished the clansmen attack.

So the stage was set
For the battle to begin,
Of cannon, shot, bayonet and sword,
And courage of brave men.

The Jacobites bedraggled
From a march the night before
Were nonetheless excited
To take the field once more.

Cumberland’s troops were rested,
Disciplined and well-trained.
They had, in bearing and manner,
A great confidence attained.

The armies now in place,
One thousand meters abreast the moor,
Front lines staring face-to-face
Cross six-hundred meters, no more.

When the clansmen fiercely charged
Across rugged, soggy ground,
Icy sleet and musket ball
Was the welcoming they found.

The Highland Charge, across the moor;
Shouting, screaming at a steady trot,
They stopped ‘bout fifty meters short,
And fired their musket shot.
Throwing their muskets to the side
They made their final dash.
Pipers piping all the way,
Broadswords and bayonets clash.

It took about a minute
To reload muskets then.
Cumberland deployed his rested troops
In three rows of men.
Each fired a volley, then
Made room for the rank behind
Who fired another volley
In twenty seconds time.

The proud remaining clansmen,
Depleted by cannon and shot,
Fiercely closed with the Redcoats,
Whether they die or not.

The Duke had trained his troops
Well in days before,
For the battle soon to come
On Drummossie Moor.
Instead of thrusting straight ahead
With bayonet in the fight,
Sink it deep into the flesh
Of the rebel on the right.

Defeated, clansmen began to flee,
Running as fast as they could.
Time for the Redcoat cavalry
To finish them off for good.

They spurred down Inverness Road,
Through the gore and mud,
Mercilessly slashing Highlanders
Left wallowing in their blood.

After less than an hour,
Fifteen hundred Jacobites lay
Dead on that blood-stained moor
That horrible April day.

And what of Cumberland’s men
On that field of dread?
They rejoiced in victory
With only fifty dead.

On that soggy battlefield
Of blood and mud and bone,
The Jacobites suffered their final bid
To put a Catholic on the throne.

Source: Culloden 1746, Fight for the Throne by Chris Tabraham, published by Lomond Books, Ltd., 2010.

Note: For more combat stories in meter and rhyme see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

Another Visit to Mr. Webster’s Wondrous Attic

September 13, 2019

In 2016, I published a book entitled Mr. Webster’s Wondrous Attic. It included the definition of 68 unusual, seldom-used words and poems that included each word in the text. I continue to collect such words and hope that one day I will be able to publish a second book with those words used in poems. If and when I do, this will be the introductory poem.

Return to Mr. Webster’s Attic

I went to where I’d been before,
Where I had learned new words galore.
I knew what I was longing for
And, because I wanted more,
I jimmied open the back door.

I went back to old Webster’s lair
And climbed up his dusty stair
To his attic waiting there.
I found strange words piled everywhere,
On floor and table, desk and chair.

I decided I would stay a while
And take some words from off a pile
To add to my expression file,
And since I am a linguaphile,
I knew that they would make me smile.

They were words you seldom see
Like psittacine, squiz and pedagogy,
Chevelure, cheville and prosody.
These were strange new words to me.
And I was as happy as I could be.

I sat there lost in time and space
In that neologistic place,
With all the words I could embrace,
Feasting on old Webster’s grace,
Gorging my lexical database.

As the sun began to rise,
Banishing the evening skies,
Flashing bright in these old eyes,
I knew that I must realize
It’s time the stair to utilize.

As I came down, one thing I knew,
I had a task that I must do.
(If my time left allows me to.)
Another book of rhymes now due,
Of rare, unusual words for you.

Note: Mr. Webster’s Wondrous Attic by Lee Austin is available through Amazon.com.

Amazing Ceremony at the India-Pakistan Border

August 23, 2019

Each evening at 5pm the border gates between Amritsar, India and Lahore, Pakistan are closed with an amazing ceremony including an unexpected twist at the end. With the two countries edging ever closer toward armed conflict over Kashmir, the leaders of India and Pakistan would do well to follow the example of the Commanders of their Border Guards.

The Border Gates

At five PM before sundown,
Along a border bellicose,
The local natives come around
To see the massive gates be closed
In ritual of great renown
Between two countries stark opposed.

There’s festive spirit in the air,
As the crowds begin to grow,
With people dancing everywhere
And swaying to and fro.
Then there comes the bugler’s blare
So everyone will know
To take their seats and settle in
Before the action starts
And the rituals soon begin.
The solders now will play their parts
Of vicious military men
With brave and patriotic hearts.

At the officer’s clear call
Indian guards begin their march.
With quickened pace and posture tall
They step toward the border arch
Oblivious to the crowd’s enthrall;
Centurion coifs, uniforms of starch.
With legs raised high and stamping feet
They approach the border menacingly.
As soles of boots slap on the street
No one there would disagree
Despite their dress both clean and neat
They look as hostile as they can be.

Now it’s the Pakistanis’ turn
To demonstrate their peacock dance.
With hands on hips in mock concern
They, too, will not forgo the chance
To show how much they have learned
About symbolic warlike stance;
To show they can kick as high
And stomp their feet just as loud;
Look adversaries in the eye
And strut and swagger just as proud
As men of war in times gone by
Who faced their timeless foe unbowed.

Symbolic combat now complete,
Each side lowers its banner high
Near end of ritual replete
With love of neighbor gone awry
As the soldiers on the street
Glare at each other eye-to-eye.
But just before the gates are barred,
Hardly noticed in the stands,
The leaders of both border guards,
Almost imperceptibly, shake hands.
What for these countries seems so hard,
Simple solders understand.

Note: To view the ceremony, see India-Pakistan border Ceremony – BBC on YouTube.

Note: For more stories and descriptions of events in meter and rhyme see Poetry That Rhymes by Lee Austin available, through Amazon.com.

The Hero You Never Knew

July 1, 2019

On this date in 2015 Nicholas Winton died. You might ask, “Who was Nicholas Winton?” This poem may help you understand.

Nicholas Winton, an Unlikely British Hero

He was about to leave in ‘38
On a skiing holiday.
He was a young stockbroker
And he needed some time away.

Switzerland was a lovely place,
In troubled times like these.
A good friend called, “Come to Prague.”
“Don’t bother to bring your skis.”

Nicholas Winton cancelled his trip
And answered his friend’s plea.
Nazi invasion of Sudetenland
Meant Jews there could not leave.

Parents he found, in dire need
To get their children out.
No child evacuation there
Left their success in doubt.

So he decided since none was there
He would set up his own.
Hundreds of parents soon lined up
Once his attempt was known.

If they had foster families
The British would let them in.
But they’d have to pay for transport,
And, oh yes, also when
They deposited 50 pounds
With the Home Office, you know.
Then they would process permits
So the Nazis would let them go.

The Jews were now struggling
Just for cash for bread.
If they didn’t have the fifty pounds,
Winton would get it instead.

So he began to advertise
For British generosity.
He appealed to human nature
To avoid the looming atrocity.

He asked other nations
To take in a threatened kid.
But the British and the Swedes
Were the only ones that did.

The Home Office was too slow
For paperwork to admit,
So he began to forge and sign
Each government permit.

Winton was successful
In helping tragedy forestall.
He got precious children out;
Six hundred sixty-nine in all.

“Winton’s Children,” they are called,
Those alive today,
In honor of the daring man
Who snatched them from harm’s way.

A modest man, he never bragged
About that part of life.
He kept it mostly secret,
Even from his wife.

Half a century later,
She found how he behaved,
In an attic scrapbook
With the names of kids he saved.

At a television program
He attended with his wife,
The host asked those to stand
If Winton had saved their life.

The television viewers
From all across the land,
Then, along with Winton,
Saw half the people stand.

Nicholas Winton now is gone.
His memory is not lost,
Especially among those kids
He rescued from the Holocaust.

Sources: BBC program, “Children Saved from the Nazis. The Story of Sir Nicholas Winton.”; Wikipedia, “The Power of Good: Nicholas Winton.”

Note: Thanks to Kevin Vargas for bringing this wonderful story of a great man to my attention.

Note: For more stories in rhyme about heroic people and events see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

Today is the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

June 6, 2019

The greatest invasion in history started 75 years ago today. That day began the end of Hitler’s dream of world domination. It is estimated that the Allies suffered over 209,000 causalities during the Battle of Normandy.

D-Day

Steel and flesh litter the beach.
Bloody brine laps the shore.
Outstretched bodies seem to reach
For entrance through Hell’s open door.

Plywood and silk clutter the sky.
Darkened figures from above.
Thousands of warriors that day die.
Side-by-side today they lie
Under markers gleaming white.
Each one there is part of
A tribute to our Freedom’s fight.

Formations of cross and David’s star
Attest to sacrifice bravely given.
And to those who’ve crossed the bar,
The gratitude of us still living.

Note: For more stories in rhyme about Patriotic events see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

Lieutenant Colonel Joe Jackson, Medal of Honor Winner

May 12, 2019

On 12 May 1968, Lt. Col. Joe Jackson and his crew were flying a routine resupply mission when the Special Forces base at Kham Duc had to be evacuated. Eight aircraft had been destroyed during the evacuation and one blocked part of the runway. The US and Vietnamese irregular Soldiers had been evacuated but a three-man Air Force combat control team had been left behind in the confusion. Lt. Col. Jackson’s routine mission suddenly became much more. This is the story of his heroics in rhyme.

The Ballad of Joe Jackson

On 12 May nineteen sixty-eight
The Air Force made an awful mistake.
They evacuated the Kham Duc base
But three Airmen they didn’t take.

Somehow three men were left behind.
The enemy was dug in all around,
And set up positions on the strip.
The Airmen feared they’d be left on the ground.

Eight of our planes had been shot down,
Ablaze on the field where they were slain.
The mile-long strip was blocked by one.
Just twenty-two hundred feet remained.

Ammunition dumps were blowing up,
Spewing flame everywhere.
Aimless blasts of abandoned rounds
Hurled debris high in the air.

The call for volunteers went out
For brave men to rescue
The Airmen left behind.
Joe Jackson knew what he must do.

He and his crew were already there.
A C-123 was what he drove.
He had to come in deadly steep,
Eight times faster than normal he dove.

An enemy rocket hit in front
Of the landing plane.
Miraculously, it didn’t explode.
They would be able to fly again.

The Airmen ran as fast as they could
Toward the defenseless craft.
The men now safely aboard,
Joe could take off at last.

As the aircraft pulled away
Rounds began to impact
Where the plane had briefly been,
But they never made contact.

The Medal of Honor was earned by Joe
For the deed that he had done.
When asked why later on,
He said, “I was the closest one.”

Sources: “Vietnam-era Medal of Honor Recipient Joe Jackson Dead at 95” by Chad Garland, Stars and Stripes. January 15, 2019; “Col. Joe Jackson, Medal of Honor hero, dies in Washington State” by Winston Skinner, The Newnan Times-Herald, January 15 2019; Medal of Honor Citation for Lt. Col. Joe Jackson, 01/16/1969.

Note: For more stories in rhyme about America’s heroes see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

Lieutenant Colonel Dick Cole, the Last of the Doolittle Raiders, Dies.

April 18, 2019

On this date in 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led a raid of 16 B-25 bombers on Tokyo, Japan, launched from the USS Hornet. The raid was in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor some four months earlier. It was the first time B-25s had been launched from an aircraft carrier and many thought it couldn’t be done. Japan thought they were immune to attacks from far-away America and the raid devastated Japanese moral and boosted that of the United States. (See “The Doolittle Raid 70 Years Ago Today” posted on 18 April 2012 at https://mypoetrythatrhymes.wordpress.com/2012/04/.) Lieutenant Dick Cole was Doolittle’s copilot during that raid and the last of the raiders to die on 9 April 2019. This is his story.

The Ballad of Richard “Dick” Cole

Wind was blasting the open hatch.
China was dark below.
The B-25 was out of fuel.
The lieutenant had to go
Out that open bay.

Nine thousand feet above the sod
Buffeted by a gale,
The battered beast was going down.
No choice now but to bail
And, I guess, hope and pray.

Lieutenant Cole was one of those
Brave and selfless men
Who volunteered to risk his life,
And, yes, would do again,
To avenge that cowardly deed,
Just over four months before,
Of a brutal surprise attack.
The President said to find a way
To hit the Japanese back
With all deliberate speed.

Jimmy Doolittle led the raid,
That no one thought could be,
Of sixteen land-based B-25s
Launched from a ship at sea;
A US aircraft carrier.

B-25s take a lot
Of runway space, you know,
To lift their heft into the air
So they can fly and go
Surmount that airspeed barrier.

The Hornet had a short runway,
Five hundred feet was all
There was for them to gain the air
Or into the water fall,
And fail at their vital task.
So Doolittle asked for volunteers
To risk their lives this way.
Eighty heroes raised their hands
To fly the appointed day
And give whatever was asked.

They were seen the day before
They were to mount and go,
By some sailors of Japan.
Discovered then, and so
They had to launch too fast.

Two hundred miles farther away
Than was the battle plan.
That meant they could not reach
The Chinese fields to land.
Once again Doolittle asked
If any wanted to quit.
No one raised a hand.
With seas crashing o’re the deck
The bombers all were manned
And were ready to go.

Doolittle and Cole were the first
To launch into the storm.
Fifteen more followed then
To link up with them and form
The raid on Tokyo.

Four hours it took before they reached
The target of desire.
Revenge for Pearl was the goal
Of every fearless flyer.
Their mission on their mind.

After the raid and running out
Of time and out of gas,
Doolittle ordered to bail out.
The crew jumped out en masse.
Wondering what they would find.

Lieutenant Cole had never jumped
From a plane before,
Nor had he been even trained
By the Army Air Corps.
He was terrified.

He leaped out of the falling plane
Into the stormy night
And yanked on the ripcord hard.
He must have done it right
Because he hadn’t died.

He didn’t land on the ground
But landed in a tree.
At dawn he climbed down
To see what he could see.
He saw a Nationalist Chinese banner.

A Chinese soldier led him to
A hut with Doolittle there.
But they weren’t out of danger yet.
Japanese were everywhere.
They escaped in a covert manner.

The raid had shocked Japan,
Which changed its battle view
To focus on Midway Atoll
To do what they must do
To try to keep our Troops away.

The US won the battle there
And began to win the war.
The men of the Doolittle Raid
Opened up the door
That led to VJ Day.

At each Raider reunion
Eighty goblets were there,
One for every airman
Who that day launched in air.
Each man had a stein.

They’d drink a toast to those who died
During the previous year.
Then overturn the goblet
Of the ones who were not here.
One less on the line.

The last goblet will soon be turned
For Lieutenant Colonel Cole.
The last of those hero men,
Whose story I just told.
Who had the courage long ago
To accomplish heroic tasks
On a stormy sea.
A task some said could not be done
That changed our history.
And now we know it’s so.

Note: Based on The Wall Street Journal article “The Last of the Doolittle Raiders Is Gone” by Laura Hillenbrand, 12 April 2019. Thanks to Phil Park for bringing it to my attention. Thanks also to Partnering With Eagles (https://profilesincourage.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/a-final-toast/) for its contribution.

For more stories in rhyme about American Heroes see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II, Medal of Honor Winner

April 6, 2019

On this date in 2008 Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer performed multiple acts of courage during a battle in Afghanistan, saving the lives of many U.S. Special Forces Soldiers and Afghan allies. On 1 October 2018 President Trump awarded him the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. This poem describes them.

The Ballad of Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II

He wasn’t quite good enough
The first time he applied.
The Army agreed to let him in
The second time he tried.

Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer
Was a Special Forces troop;
A Senior Medical Sergeant,
Third Special Forces Group.

In Afghanistan it was,
Six April of oh-eight,
Task Force Thirty-Three
Was about to meet its fate.

They went in by chopper
To eliminate bad guys
When two hundred enemy
Gave them a stark surprise.

RPGs, machine guns
And deadly sniper fire
Quickly put the unit
In a battlefield quagmire.

The Soldiers in the front
And up the mountain side
Had suffered some wounded
But none, as yet, had died.

Through insurgent fusillade
Shurer climbed the slope.
For the wounded Soldiers,
He was their only hope.

He stopped to help a Soldier
Who in the neck was shot.
He had to do his duty
Should he be killed or not.

He then fought up the mount
An hour that grim day,
Killing all the enemy
Engaged along the way.

He finally reached the unit
That was desperately pinned down.
A bunch of wounded Soldiers
Up there was what he found.

He treated four Americans
And ten Afghan comrade.
The Special Ops Team Sergeant
Was also wounded bad.

He braved the enemy bullets
To reach the wounded man.
He must pull him to cover
Any way he can.

As he was doing so,
Shurer suffered harm.
A bullet hit his helmet,
Another pierced his arm.

Undeterred, he rendered aid
To his leader there,
Despite rounds and shrapnel
Flying through the air.

Yet another Soldier
Was wounded in the fight.
He rendered aid to him also.
Bound his bandage tight.

For more than six long hours
He gave his comrades aid.
Fought to keep the foe away,
And he also prayed.

To evacuate disabled
They had to navigate
A sixty-foot precipice
Whose face was nearly straight.

He devised a harness
To lower wounded down,
Shielding with his body
‘Til they were on the ground.

After they were med-evaced
He then rejoined the fray
‘Til it was safe for all to leave.
At last, call it a day.

No one died that day,
No one was left behind.
Today there’re Soldiers very glad
The Army changed its mind.

Sources: “Medal of Honor Citation, Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II, Oct. 2018”; The Washington Times, 2 Oct. 2018, “Trump awards former Army medic with Medal of Honor”; On Point: The Journal of Army History, Winter 2019, Vol. 24, No. 3, “Medal of Honor Presented to Former Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II”; Army, Nov. 2018, “An Uphill Battle; Medic’s Silver Star Upgraded to Medal of Honor”.

Note: For more stories in rhyme about the heroics of Medal of Honor winners see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

International Women’s Day

March 8, 2019

Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the accomplishments of women world-wide. This poem is dedicated to a special class of women who achieve significant accomplishments and make selfless sacrifices every day—The American Military Wife.

The American Military Wife

Up in the morning at oh-dark thirty,
Cooking bacon and eggs,
I have my bath, wash my hair and also shave my legs.
I’m up to feed my warrior
Before he goes to do
His daily work and passion of defending me and you.

After he walks out the door,
Before my second cup,
I walk myself down the hall to get the children up.
Feed the kids and get ‘em dressed
And bundle ‘em off to school.
They promise not to cause a fuss or violate a rule.

I am an American military wife
Doing the best I can.
Spending each day of my life
Serving my country and my man.
I’m an American military wife
Serving every day,
Every day of my life
In my loving way.

Next come the chores and shopping
And volunteering, too
And about a half a hundred other things to do.
There’s community work and PTA
And helping those in need,
Getting the car to the shop, and the church group that I lead.

My life is full and meaningful
It is the life for me.
But it’s not a piece of cake, it’s not like on TV.
My focus is the family
And to keep it safe and strong.
It’s not the easiest life on earth but it’s where I belong.

I am an American military wife
Doing the best I can.
Spending every day of my life
Serving my country and my man.
I’m an American military wife
Serving every day,
Every day of my life
In my loving way.

When he’s home the days are best
Though he’s rarely here,
It’s better than his being sent off to war somewhere.
We do the things when he’s home
That regular families do.
Just like regular people, just like folks like you.

But while he’s here there always is
A thought deep in my mind
That he is only here for such a little time.
When he’s gone the days are long.
I’ll go through thick and thin
To keep the home fires burning until he’s home again.

I am an American military wife
Doing the best I can.
Spending every day of my life
Serving my country and my man.
I’m an American military wife
Serving every day,
Every day of my life
In my loving way.

I’m so lonely when he’s gone
Though there’s so much to do.
Contentments are far between and happy times are few.
So I look to the day
When he comes back to me.
That’s the day we’ll reunite as a family.

It’s so hard to think of him
And the danger that he’s in.
And to know that there’s a chance he won’t come home again.
And if he should give his all
For the country that he loves,
I’ll still be here to do my best, with assistance from above.

I’ll be an American widowed wife
Doing the best I can.
Spending every day of my life
Serving the memory of my man.
I’ll be an American widowed wife
Serving every day,
Every day of my life
In my loving way.

Note: For more stories in rhyme about Patriotic Americans see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.