I am a volunteer at my local VA Medical Center's Hospice ward. On 29 March 2018, I was visiting a 99-year old Marine veteran, who had served for 30 years, including World War II (Iwo Jima), and Vietnam (3 tours). Though still conscious, he was fading fast. As I stood by his bed, holding his old, weathered hand, I was inspired to write this poem. "Mr. B" passed away the next day.
I held the hand of a hero today.
Too weak to talk,
He could still smile anyway.
What was on his mind I couldn't say.
Thirty years he had served
With the U.S. Marines.
Two wars! Dear God,
The things he must have seen!
Battlefield carnage, his buddies dying,
As he kept up the fight and never quit trying
To win, to drive back those whose goal
Was to destroy his spirit and America's soul.
He served his country well
As he endured an earthly hell,
That would haunt his dreams and memories,
And make it seem that peace of mind would never be
For him a true reality.
For you, my warrior friend, I pray that Heaven awaits.
With St. Peter standing at the pearly gates.
When you arrive, he will let you in
And welcome you as friend to friend.
Though you'll soon leave this earth
I can always say
That I held the hand of a hero today.
by Carolyn Abell Smith