Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Different Kind of Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,

I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.

My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,

My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,

Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,

Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,

Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.

In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,

So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,

But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.

Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the

su re sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,

And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,

A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,

Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.

Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,

Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

'What are you doing?' I asked without fear,

'Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!

Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,

You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!'

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,

Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light

Then he sighed and he said 'Its really all right,

I'm ou t here by choice. I'm here every night.'

'It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,

That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,

I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,'

Then he sighed, 'That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers.'

My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',

And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,

But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,

The red, white, and blue... an American flag.

I can live through the cold and the being alone,

Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,

I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.

I can carry the weight of killing another,

Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..

Who stand at the front against any and all,

To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.'

'So go back inside,' he said, 'harbor no fright,

Your family is waiting and I'll be all right.'

'But isn't there something I can do, at the least,

'Give you money,' I asked, 'or prepare you a feast?

It seems all too little for all that you've done,

For being away from your wife and your son.'

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,

'Just tell us you love us, and never forget.

To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,

To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,

To know you remember we fought and we bled.

Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,

That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.'

PLEASE, Would you do me the kind favor of sending this to as many people as you can? Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our U.S. service men and women for our being able to celebrate these festivities. Let's try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.

LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN

30t h Naval Construc tion Regiment

OIC, Logistics Cell One

Al Taqqadum , Iraq

Note: This poem was forwarded to the Niles (IL) Public Library by Martin J. O'Grady, a participant in the Veterans History Project. His memoir of service is available at the library.

Holiday message from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Text of Mr. Gates Speech

Oldest World War I Veteran Dies

J. Russell Coffey passed away in Ohio.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Final Salute, a special report by the Rocky Mountain News

The Final Salute

A touching 24 page special report from the Rocky Mountain News

This page has links to an audio slide show, video and a pdf of the original 24 page report:

"They are the troops that nobody wants to see,
carrying a message that no military family ever wants to hear.

It begins with a knock at the door. . . ."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Veterans History Project Breakfast

Originally uploaded by Niles Public Library District
Mr. Cary Czarnecki, Niles Library Administrator, introduces the History Singers, Kathryn and John Atwood. They entertained the audience with songs from World War I and II and conducted a sing-a-long.

More photos of the November 7th morning event at the Niles Public Library can be viewed at this photo sharing site.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Voices of World War II

is the cover story of the 9/24 issue of U.S. News and World War Report and includes the helpful article "Making History" and "Some Tips of the Trade" for making oral histories as well as a sidebar with Ken Burns.

Niles Veterans Memorial Waterfall

The memorial is located on the southwest corner of the Milwaukee and Touhy intersection in Niles.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The War PBS Documentary

A weary Marine in Saipan, 1944
Courtesy of National Archives
This seven-part series will run on PBS September 23-October2, 2007, at 8 p.m.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thomas F. Hill

Battle of the Bulge and the 106th Division Background

Albert Dominick

Donald L. Lewan

Norman Karel

Mike Kozyra

Edward Hawker

John DeCecco

Tom Davidson

Donald Spitzer

Walter Tymczuk

Mr. Tymczuk's transcript can be read via the Niles Public Library's website at . 

Mr. Tymczuk's interview can also be searched and heard by visiting the Veterans History Project page on the Niles Library website and clicking on "World War II Europe."

Paul Schneller

Robert J. Crandall

Hymen H. Ray

Russell A. Zapel

Mr. Zapel's interview can now be read, heard  and searched via the library's website at  .

Edward J. Murnane

Martin J. O'Grady

Jack Weinberg

Anthony J. Dina

Albert A. Aronson

Seymour Wachtenheim

Robert S. Goldberg

Niels H. K. Larsen

Mr. Larsen's interview can now be read, heard  and searched via the library's website at .