ODE TO JOHNNY
Johnny, where are you now my friend?
Will you ever come marching home?
Is there still a chance after all these years
The truth will ever be known?
We were just kids in high school, the first time that I’d see
A picture of you in uniform on top of your TV.
“Who’s the Green Beret?” I asked and sadly, Steve replied:
“My brother John, he’s MIA; we hope he’s still alive.”
You were so young, yet strong and brave when you went off to war.
Too soon to be lost, your chopper shot down,
Far away on a foreign shore.
I wasn’t there to see your Mama’s face
When they came to tell her they had found no trace.
Now I wonder, are you in a cage, scorched by the blazing sun?
Are you in a prison, in a cave, or are you on the run?
Do you show the signs of meals not eaten?
Do you bear the scars of being beaten?
Or were you left to die in the jungle alone?
No answers have come to those at home.
The thought of never knowing has become too much to bear.
And the pain has become my prison, the only common bond we share.
Many nights I wonder how this ever came to be.
You went to Southeast Asia so that others might be free.
Your family has all moved away, they never told me where.
I wish I could tell them I think of you
And let them know I care.
Please, Hanoi: put an end to this.
So many years have passed by with his band on my wrist.
I try so hard to keep his memory alive-
With a prayer in my heart that somehow he survived.
And still the others, what of their fate?
We need to know before it’s too late.
Before this country makes him forget
There is pride in being a Vietnam Vet!
I won’t give up… yes there’s still a chance
The truth will soon be known.
And I’ll be there to greet you with a
©Copyright 1995 by Kristin Guido
Author’s Note: Dedicated to SSGT John T. Gallagher: D.O.L. January 5, 1968 Laos. This poem was written from the view of a friend who was a neighbor of the Gallaghers. As with all POWs and MIAs, John will never be forgotten.
A person I was very close to at the time had been a neighbor of John’s family for several years. He had frequently talked about the first time he had gone to the house as a teenager with John’s brother Steve and seen the photo. It haunted him as long as I knew him.
We were both active in the organization, Vietnam Veterans of America, and frequently attended POW/MIA vigils throughout the state. On occasion, he would represent John in the bamboo cage that was used to depict a POW from our state. It is because of his connection with John that I wrote the poem one night, as a tribute.
It sat in the drawer for several years until on Memorial Day 2000 I left a framed copy at the Vietnam Memorial in New Haven, CT on which John’s name is listed. The next day there was a ceremony and I went back for the ceremony and the poem was gone. One of the people made a comment about a poem that had been left that had been removed. When they found out it was my poem, I was asked if I had another, and was asked to read it, which I did.
Since then I have had the honor of being asked to read it at candlelight ceremonies at the Moving Wall, tree lighting ceremonies, and POW vigils. It holds a special place in my heart now because it is keeping John’s memory alive and all others that are still not home yet.
We need to bring them all home.
Author’s Update: I would like to update you regarding John T. Gallagher about whom the poem “Ode to Johnny” was written.
Several years ago the wreckage of his helicopter was found and investigated. Though there were items found relating to each of the crew on board at the time it was shot down, the only identifiable remains were those of John Gallagher.
A year ago a funeral was held in Arlington for all of them combined in one gravesite. But at the family’s request, John’s remains were exhumed and buried this summer at the family plot in Hamden CT on his birth date of June 17.
I was honored to be able to attend with the family friend mentioned in the poem, and before leaving the VFW for the cemetery some members of Patriot Guard asked me to read it one last time, even though I had read it at many functions.
I met the family and was given a photo collage done by the local VFW who put a copy of the poem on the reverse side. His family knew of the poem, as did others, but did not know who I was until that day.
Though there has been closure for all of us I still keep a memorial to him in my computer room and thank you for accepting my poem on your site. One day I hope to write a follow up poem. God bless you on Veterans Day…
November 2, 2008