I recently accompanied a 94-year-old veteran on the cruise ship Boudicca to the beaches of Normandy for the service of remembrance to mark this momentous historic occasion. It was a very enlightening and humbling experience.
I stood with the old men on the beach of sharp memories
Their past out of reach to me; history only they can see.
Looking back to the great attack
Landing craft abeam and abaft spilling fearful, determined men
Into blood churned waters of destruction
The waves, the undertow’s suction
Dragging comrades to their doom, men who only hours ago talked of home
Smoking, nervously joking
Thinking of loved ones left behind, their children crying as they are dying
Bullet pierced, shrapnel-torn some sinking down to drown
The helpless watched the hapless die, no time to cry,
Machine guns clatter, bodies shatter, men scatter. No deflection, same direction
On., on up the death-scoured, hate-showered beach
To reach the dreaded pillbox, to end forever its malevolence
I watched my friend, saw his teardrops fall upon that sand,
Seventy-five years of pain, dead comrades briefly live again
Peoples of this land thank him and others, forever brothers
Joined by their suffering shared, grateful of their life spared
Visiting graveyards, endless rows, some whom God alone knows
“Know unto God” the tombstone read, Was it our Jonny, Bill or Fred?
Yet sorrowful eyes do not despise their former enemy, for that place, too,
Was their Gethsemane
Ninety-four years old he stands, erect, a sad but proud man He played his part
In this cruel war, hell’s creation, that tore at the nation’s heart
We turn as parades pass, The great and the good of our land
Pretend to understand, yet those who were there cannot
Bugles call, flags are raised, the old men praised
It will happen again, we just know not when
Will we ever hear of war’s Amen?