James “Jim” Godwin

James “Jim” Godwin

Jim Godwin and his daughter, Maya
Jim Godwin and his daughter, Maya. At the date of the publication of this page, Maya is a High School Senior
Jim Godwin was my best friend in Marlinton High School from 1957-1960 and was an artist and a great writer. He went to work as a reporter for the Trentonian Newspaper in Trenton, N. J. after graduation in 1960 and I answered John Kennedy’s challenge to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country.” I enlisted in the U. S. Navy and Jim was drafted into the U. S. Army.

Jim did not flee to Canada or England as did many others, including our former President. Jim reported for induction, was sent to Vietnam, exposed to Agent Orange and unspeakable atrocities that left him to endure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for the rest of his life. Jim came home to West Virginia from his Vietnam service with deep emotional scars that made his life constant misery, but at least he did not come home in a body bag, as almost 60,000 of our other comrades did, or physically mutilated by horrible wounds as another 400,000 of our comrades did.

Jim finally died in late December 1997, actually a Vietnam Casualty, thirty years after the fact. His name belongs on “The Wall” just as much as any that are on it. I attended Jim’s Wake in Elkins, WV in January 1997 and visited with many of our old friends and Jim’s family. We recalled some of his absolutely great writing and I showed them his finest work, “EPITAPH TAPS.” Jim had made a special visit to present me a personal copy just a few months before he died. I believe he did this in anticipation of his death.

I am enclosing a copy of Jim’s opus, because no one ever described a military funeral better than he did in “EPITAPH TAPS.” I would remind you that this scene was repeated almost 60,000 times during Vietnam, I participated in dozens of these ceremonies for my fallen comrades.

Don Holland
September 17, 2003


EPITAPH TAPS

Bereaved family,
Bereaved friends,
Men, Women, Children,
Rifles and Flag,
A forlorn bugler, hence…

Those of Cloth
Deliver God’s Words,
Of Valley and Shadow,
Black and Veil,
And TAPS…

Light rain unfelt,
Sunburst unseen,
Hand with Bible shaking,
Eyes glazed,
Serene…

Few minutes to recapitulate
A score of years,
An Obituary,
An Epitaph,
Eyes filled with tears…

Empathize Spouse,
Parent and Child,
Comrades
Few peers,
Faces in the crowd…

Ne’er forget the Patriot,
Lying ‘neath the shroud,
Of Glorious Stars and Stripes,
Be proud,
Dare not ye speak, those disavowed!

Test not is Hero right,
Justified in cause,
Or dark, be damned,
By passive man,
Serve eternal pause…

For can you know the pain,
Can you touch the sore,
Can you taste the blood,
And hear the silence,
Of the Dead of War?

Hear first the Psalms,
The rifle blasts,
The “Praise Be God”,
And “Hallelujah,
He rests at last”…

Feel throats knot,
Silent cries,
Memories passing,
Behind moist eyes;
Vague attempts to realize…

Now disturbing quiet
Permeates the air,
Inaudible speech,
‘Tis oft somewhere;
Prevail, Despair…

Must that Knight in casket,
Feel the pain and dread,
Of comrades who survived,
Just to be chastised,
And wish they too were dead…

Has Gallant Soldier Fallen;
Ultimately is he whole?
Trust God be Judge; not man,
He has lost this weary life,
But not his immortal soul!

And, TAPS…