A prayer to lift the weight of battle

This Memorial weekend, let?s remember how war can wound the souls of our veterans. I am talking about my own father, although other veterans share similar feelings.

Please remember veterans this weekend, and what they did for all of us.

For five decades of my life, Dad only talked about the happier war stories with comrades. He was in the World War II invasion of North Africa, the invasion of Sicily, the invasion of Italy on Anzio, and the campaign up Italy, where he saw the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress hanging in the square, still being abused and spat on by angry Italians.

I knew Dad was in army ordinance but I didn?t know he was in ordinance recovery, which put him in the front line, and sometimes even beyond that, with a small recovery unit.

He described to me once in later years how he and the other members of a small team, alone far beyond their lines, had been overjoyed to find a barn to sleep in after months with little shelter outside.

What they didn?t know was that there were German soldiers hiding in the loft of the barn who got very little sleep that night with the Americans sleeping below them. When the Americans roused themselves in the morning, a German lowered his rifle, butt first, and loudly proclaimed in German that they were surrendering. The Americans figured it out, and took them prisoner.

One day a relative confided to my dad as I sat listening that he had killed more than 100 Germans in combat, but he was starting, in his late 60s, to have dreams about only one of them?a woman shooting at the Americans from an upstairs window.

?I got a bead on her face, fired, and it blew her face to pieces. That?s what I?m seeing, night after night.?

When he left, I remarked on his sharing, and my father replied, ?And I saw even more than he did.?

One day I was visiting Dad in the rest home. We had been watching PBS together when they came on with a new program, a documentary with film footage of the Battle of Monte Casino. They hadn?t announced what the battle was yet, but Dad recognized it.

Dad had spent the last half of his life not wanting to see any films dealing with the war, so I automatically asked if I should turn it off.

He replied, ?No, that?s Monte Casino. I saw the whole thing. In a minute, big waves of airplanes will come in to bomb. I didn?t think they would ever stop.?

One day he told me he wouldn?t last much longer. I tried to comfort him, and ended by saying that at least he would see my mother and other relatives in heaven.

He said, ?I don?t know about that. I think I probably will be going to hell. I?ve killed (people in war).?

I couldn?t say much, so I wrote this poem for him that is in my third book.

Another veteran, of the Korean War this time, used to take the framed copy of this poem from my Dad?s room to his room, where we learned he just held it, and rocked in a chair.

Here it is for you in the afterglow of Memorial Day. It?s titled ?Oh my father.?


Oh my Father,

what am I to say to you

who woke with

the thousands of dead

around you many mornings,

so much so,

that you tell me,

being around the dead

doesn?t bother you.

I fear death

as I know we all do,

even with faith,

as you must too,

because you tell me

the Ten Commandments include

?Thou shalt not kill,?

so you must be going to hell,

you say.


Oh my Father,

I know in my heart of hearts,

the discernment knowledge,

that Lord Jesus Christ

has a special place for you

for the nobility of soul

that sacrificed for all of us,

listed most reliable

in a high school yearbook,

known for reliability,

gentle wisdom,

and your incredible honesty,

your entire life.

Your human soul

more valued

in our living God?s eyes

than any nation,

yet you were uplifted

for being willing

to lay your life down.


Oh my Father,

what can I say

when I was a protected one

while you saw friends

die before the Viche guns,

saw the crushing defeat of Kasserine,

then went from Tunis

up the bloody spine of Sicily

for Patton?s glory,

went under the blasts from Bertha

for the nights on Anzio,

where you learned to say

?When it?s your time to go,

it’s your time to go.?

You saw the horror

on Monte Casino,

then went into Rome

into Florence,

throughout the valley of the Po.

You saw Mussolini

and his mistress

hanging in the square,

more than 20 days dead,

awful pieces of meat.

From another man?s stiffened fingers,

you took your Luger.


Oh my Father,

you who saw

a thousand years of death

in only four of war,

need to know

you are saved by the grace

of our ever-living God,

and not judged

by what you did in war

or as a good man afterward.

But what can I say

without being your weeping child again,

for you to comfort again,

for you were given

dominion over me,

and it was me

who grew up in peace

under the steadfast protection

of one who knew

the worst tragedies

of our turning terrible

but beautiful world.


Oh Father,

save my Father,

and give him the peace

that passes understanding.

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