JUST A COMMON SOLDIER
Today I feature a poem that was read out at my stepfather's funeral recently. The funeral, and especially the burial, was magnificently attended by my stepfather's local RSL - Returned Services League.
This poem was written by Larry Vaincourt. Larry Vaincourt's writing has been published across Canada, the United States and around the world. Born in upstate New York, Larry grew up as a farm boy in the rural setting of Covey Hill, Quebec, where he lived until he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II as a Leading Aircraftsman. After serving as an aircraft mechanic and part-time entertainer, he returned to Quebec in 1946. A varied career saw him working as a logger, news photographer (ABC News Pictures), civil servant and metallurgical photographer (Rolls Royce).
Larry embarked upon his writing career first as a regular columnist for THE LACHUTE WATCHMAN. Larry's prose and poetry were carried for over 20 years as a regular feature in the journals DIALOGUE and MAIN STREET, as well as on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio program FRESH AIR. Larry received the 2004 Column of the Year Award from the Quebec Newspaper Association. Sadly, Larry passed away on April 20th, 2009, surrounded by his family.
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And tho' sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
It's so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.
Clancy's comment: Well said, Larry. And thank you to the Cobram RSL for a magnificent, proud and respectful burial service for my stepfather, George.
Vale, Larry Vaincourt. Vale, George.
Vale, Larry Vaincourt. Vale, George.
Congratulations to Richard Flanagan,
an Aussie, for winning
the Man Booker Prize.
Richard, you deserve one
of my famous t-shirts ...
LEST WE FORGET