Frank J. Montoya

DO YOU REMEMBER ME?

IWVPA Bronze Helmet Top Poet Award of Excellence - April 2005Who were they that we sent to The Western Front
To quell the tide of the Kaiser’s greed?
They went… more than a million strong;
And Blackjack Pershing was there to lead.

They slogged through field and forest in muck and mire,
And lived in miles of trenches, where they fell, en masse,
Not just from bullets, bombs and bayonets,
But from Phosgene, Chlorine and Mustard Gas.

They fought and died at the Hindenburg Line,
At the Meuse, the Marne, and the Ardennes Plateau.
Now thousands rest in Flanders and in St. Mihiel,
Beneath the Stars and Crosses, row on row.

You sent me “Over There” to fight in France.
I survived Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood.
But I could not escape from my mud-filled trench,
When poison gas blew in right where I stood.
I waged so many dogfights in the sky,
Now here in Flanders Field I lie.
Do you remember me?

To stop a mad dictator’s evil scheme,
Who were they that we made return once more?
They left their homes, their jobs, their families,
To risk life and limb on foreign shore.

For four long years the battles raged,
On the sands of Africa, France and Italy;
In Belgium, Holland and Germany;
In hostile air and unfriendly sea.

I faced both tanks and thirst in storms of sand.
My Submarine’s torpedoes ruled the seas.
The Flying Fortress was my favorite plane,
But my Glider’s crash brings back sad memories.

D Day found me there, at Normandy.
I waded through that bloody, churning foam.
I was one of the many thousands there
Who did not live to come back home.

I put my trust in My God and my parachute,
In Sicily, in Holland, and St. Lo.
I was shot in that Massacre at Malmedy,
And spent Christmas at Bastogne trapped in snow.

I was cheered as I marched through Paris,
And through the ruins of Rome as well.
But in those NAZI concentration camps,
I saw ravaged souls who had been through hell.
Do you remember me?

Who were they that sunbathed on the beach,
While cowards plotted behind their back?
Those diplomats that so sweetly smiled,
As Pearl Harbor fell to the sneak attack.

At Pearl Harbor one Sunday morn,
I paid the price for your complacency.
The Arizona Memorial is now my tomb,
At the bottom of that blue Hawaiian Sea.

And to the far Pacific, that vast expanse,
Now held by the sons of the Rising Sun,
Who did we send to liberate
Those countless islands, one by one?

The Marshalls, The Gilberts, The Philippines,
The Solomons, New Guinea, so many more.
The foe would defend them most desperately,
And they would gladly die for their Emperor.

My ship reached Midway, Truk and Bougainville
And other islands I can’t name;
And I tried so hard not to show my fear
The day those dreaded Kamikazes came.

I thought of friends lost on Corregidor,
As I lay wounded on the beach, there in Saipan.
And I can’t forget the way so many died
On that Death March in Bataan.

On Iwo Jima Isle, I helped to raise our Flag.
I had grown old by then, though I was just eighteen.
I can’t forget the sounds and the smell of war,
And I still dream of the misery and pain I’ve seen.
Do you remember me?

Who were those five brave sons that would all be known
For their dauntless courage while they served at sea?
Five young Sullivans died…at each others’ side;
They gave their lives for their country, unselfishly.

And throughout our land in the still of night,
Mothers looked out their windows with tear-filled eyes.
But those Stars of Gold, held in trembling hands,
Could do nothing to brighten the dull, dark skies.

I served in that “War to end all Wars”.
My memories and scars will remain for life.
I fought so that mankind could live in peace,
And never again see such grief and strife.

We swore that this would be the last.
No more would madmen rule the earth.
But Autocrats and Politics just will not rest,
And new Dogmas and Doctrines are given birth.

Who were they that we sent at the UN’s call,
When North Korea sought to take the upper hand?
That conflict extended to three long years,
In that strange and cold, relentless land.

We forgot too quickly those we sent to fight.
We called it a “Police Action”, not a war;
But more than fifty thousand lives were lost,
And the stand-off remains, just as before.

Korea called for help, you sent me there.
“Quick and easy”, you said that it would be.
But for me and many thousands more,
It was the last of life that we would ever see.

I fought from Pusan, and from Inchon, to the Yalu,
But there, the Chinese Army broke my hold.
I barely made my way back down to Seoul;
My feet had frozen from the bitter cold.
Do you remember me?

Who were they that once again were called?
To take up arms, to take a doubtful stand;
For another small nation hoping to stay free
From the Viet Cong Communists’ heavy hand.

I trudged through jungles, thick with booby-traps,
In search of foes I could not see.
But I saw wide-eyed kids who begged for food,
Hiding grenades meant to kill both them and me.

I was close to death when my chopper crashed,
But our Medics, with their magic, made me well.
It was during TET that my luck ran out,
When my hootch was hit by a mortar shell.

That war divided our nation and the world as well.
Anti-war feelings were loud and strong.
Our commitment was viewed with contempt and scorn.
It was an honorable venture that we let go wrong.

Our troops were unjustly given blame;
Without our full support they could not go far.
Their welcome home was spiteful, indifferent and cold.
They had won the battles, but we had lost the war.

Ten years they had fought for that dubious cause.
Over fifty eight thousand did not return:
A thankless task, from the very start,
One more costly lesson that we did not learn.

I watched for snipers and for punji pits.
I cried each time I saw a body bag.
I served when “protestors” ran away to hide,
And while crowds at home defiled my Flag.
It was a futile war, but I was sent… I tried.
And tens of thousands more tried as well… and died.
Do you remember me?

Who were they that we sent to the Persian Gulf,
To help free Kuwait when Saddam’s muscles flexed?
Who was sent to Somalia, Grenada and Panama,
To Kosovo, to Bosnia,… who knows where next?

I dodged when Scuds came streaking from the sky,
And fought through burning oil on desert sand.
In Iraq, I fought and died bringing freedom to a troubled land
And while hunting terrorists in the hills of Afghanistan.

I’ve done each thankless job you have given me,
When my work is done, I’m left to go my way.
But promises made in wartime you forget today.
Does that same fate await the POW? The MIA?

Who were they, those tormented and abused,
In prison camps, starved to skin and bone?
And who are they that are missing still?
Will their fate forever remain unknown?

I was caged in Stalags, in pits and bamboo huts.
I was tortured both in body and in mind.
I was hungry, sick, and often wished to die.
To live took all the faith and courage I could find.
Do you remember me?

Who were they then… in those times gone by?
And who are they now… in our present day?
They are the sons and daughters that we call to serve,
To defend our land, to keep the beasts at bay.

When there was need, for whatever cause,
You called… I heard… I raised my hand.
I served selflessly with faith and pride,
Each time the flame of war was fanned.

We call them Veterans, when their job is done,
They come back wiser, but aged…beyond their years.
With tales to tell, of times both good and bad,
Some told with laughter, some told with tears.

They deserve our honor and gratitude.
They heard our call, they took the stand.
Their duty was clear, they performed it well,
And we still have Freedom throughout this land.

Let us, one and all, give our thanks, once more,
To those still among us… their heads held high,
To the POW’s, to the MIA’s
And to those valiant souls that we sent forth… to die.

Now my story sadly dims with each passing year,
As there are less and less of me still here.
But I can live on and on… eternally,
If you will do just this:

REMEMBER ME!

Author’s Note: Dedicated to All Veterans Past, Present and Future

Someone has to beat the drum. Someone has to say the word.
Someone has to blow the horn, or else the story won’t be heard.