Anthony W. Pahl and Richard D. Preston


In the hearts of those who were with him
but had to leave him when he died,
the awful pain of guilt yet lives
and still reflects in vacant eyes.
He’ll never be a number
or a report upon a page.
To them he’ll always be a friend;
a friend who’ll never age.

He breathed and swore and shared bad jokes
and stood firmly by their side.
And when the flack exploded overhead,
he never winced or cried.
His voice was as an angel
when he softly crooned the blues,
and fingers that pulled a trigger
enabled his guitar to sing them too.

His down-home style of talking
and the stories that he told
caused many eyes to glisten
in the lantern’s dingy glow.
And his laughter was a beacon
in the blackness of the war;
death was always locked outside
when they closed their hooch’s door.

Hell came stalking ‘bout half past four
when rockets seared the air.
Sand bags ripped and trip flares tripped;
Charley came without a care.
In the forefront of this hellish war,
amidst explosions in the night
a hometown boy fought on and on
while his company sought respite.

Hours passed; night turned to day
before the company could return.
That’s when they found an old guitar
all broken, scorched and burned.
His story is an echo now
in the hearts and minds of friends.
Songs he crooned ‘neath jungle moons
have come sadly to an end.

They found nothing of that brave young boy;
no evidence of his plight,
except an empty boot and the burned guitar
owned by the hero of that fight.
Will he be remembered? Perhaps…
by the few who feel the pain
of another forgotten entry
in a book full of forgotten names.

Submitted for the May 2002 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Missing in Action