This poem is shared with permission by the author. I first heard this poem 11/10 at VA Medical Center in Minneapolis. It was first performed, by George, at the VA Creative Arts Festival, LaCrosse, WI, October 2010. George joined the Army in 1943 and transferred to the Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot. A week before deploying to England and the war, the military officially phased out the aircraft. He was discharged and returned home to Minnesota. George is now 91.
We were so young when we went off to war
It's what young people do and had done before
When our country needed us, young men and women, too,
Put on hold our private lives, did what he had to do.
We left our schools, our homes, our jobs, our loved ones all behind.
We went where we were ordered, not knowing what we'd find.
None of us were heroes we just did what he were told
Raw recruits, young in years, how soon war made us old
We played the hand war dealt to us. Some had an easy tour.
Some faced danger every day. We never could be sure
That tomorrow might be peaceful or tomorrow might be hell.
You never could predict it. There was no way to tell
Every day was different yet each day was the same.
Hurry up and wait, we were experts at that game
Days became weeks, weeks became months and months turned into years
Before we could go home, to school, or pick up our careers
Some in flag draped boxes were welcomed home with tears
Mourned by friends and family, saluted by their peers
Some with lost limbs or gory wounds or wounds you cannot not see,
Permanent reminders that freedom is not free.
Freedom is paid for in flesh and blood and lives turned inside out,
More precious than the dollar cost that people talk about.
From Bunker Hill to Kabul and all battles in between
Red stained grounds say paid-in-full, the slate, for now, wiped clean
But tomorrow is another day. More young blood will flow,
First payment on the next due bill. How much? We do not know.
There's no cut rate for Freedom. It never goes on sale.
It's pay full price in youthful lives so freedom can prevail.
We don't take freedom lightly because we remember when
We fought to protect it. Some are doing it again.
A new young generation has taken up its turn
Fresh faced guardians of liberty they'll not all return
But some will join us on the sidelines, veterans at rest
While the freedom we cherish withstands its latest test
Here we are, young and old of every shape and size
Diverse in race and religion, some foolish and some wise
Different in every conceivable way but when the flag goes by
We are one. We love our country, the United States of America,
And will 'til the day we die.