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LEST WE FORGET - My Tribute in Poetry

I have written these poems in tribute to Veterans everywhere. I am not a veteran, but having talked to many in finding out about my dad, and what I remember of my dad's reaction when war was talked about I have learned a little about what they feel and what it means to them and I have tried to put it into some of my poems. I KNOW that I can never, ever feel what they do or remember what they remember so the feelings I have tried to put into words may not be accurate, I have done the best I could so that others like myself may have a little more understanding.

WONDERFUL NEWS --- My poem A Soldier's Prayer has been published as part of a book now available at Barnes and Nobel. The book is about the Women who served in Vietnam. If you think you might be interested in the book go over to Author's Website to learn more about the book. Buy it at Barnes and Nobels - Angels in Vietnam:Women who Served

WWW.MILITARYWIVES.COM has a wall hanging quality copy of my poem My Daddy Is a Soldier, adapted for the other service branches and in Mommy as well, available for purchase. They've done a truly beautiful job so please go take a look at what they've done with my poem and see all the other items they offer.

If you would like to copy the poems that's fine just let me know as I like to keep track of where my poems go. Thank you. Maria


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A SOLDIER'S PRAYER
Dear Lord
Please let me have regular dreams like others do
Not these nightmares of memory
Let my dreams be filled with light and joy
Not smoke and terror
Let me hear the laughter of children
Not the screams of men dying
Let the birds fill the air with song
Not the sounds of bombs and bullets
Let the rivers run pure and clear
Not red with blood
Let everyone be healthy and whole
Not missing limbs and faces
Let the earth look as you made it
Not scorched and cratered
Let me wake up smiling
Not searching for the enemy
Let the sweat on my pillow be from summer's heat
Not the sweat of fear and anxiety
but dear Lord most of all
I beg you
Please don't let my children or their children
pray to you as I am doing tonight
Amen

Written by Maria Sutherland
September 16, 1999

MY DADDY IS A SOLDIER
My daddy is a soldier
he’s often gone away
to some far off country
where he has to stay.
I really miss my daddy
and I’m not sure what he does
except he helps other people
who need him very much.
At night when I say my prayers
I ask to keep daddy safe
so that he can come home to us
and sit in his favourite place.
Some nights I can hear mommy cry
when she thinks I’m asleep
I know she misses daddy
and her sadness hurts real deep.
I know that a day may come
when daddy won’t come home
and it scares me even thinking
that we will be alone.
My daddy is a soldier
he’s often gone away
And I am so very proud of him
each and every day.
Come home to us daddy
When your job is done
I know that those people needed you
But they aren’t the only ones.

written by Maria Sutherland
April 7, 2003
Daddy can be changed to mommy for all the soldier moms.


TOO YOUNG
Yesterday you were a boy
with peachfuzz on your chin
just graduating from high school
your life to begin

Today you must become a man
although to young to shave
your goverment has called your name
and your country you must save

Today you don a uniform
a rifle placed in your hand
and told that you must kill
the enemy of the land

You stand so very straight and tall
a boy in a man's place
little do you understand
the terror that you'll face

Army was your favourite game
with toy gun in your hand
you'd go and kill the enemy
who'd always come alive again

This time my son it is for real
with bullets not just bang
and those killed will never rise again
for them the funeral bells have rang

Yesterday you were a boy
with peachfuzz on your chin
just graduating from high school
your life to begin

Today a coffin brings you home
at your graveside we must stand
my wonderful darling little boy
will never become a man.

Written by Maria Sutherland
January 1st, 2001
This is for all the parents past, present and future who must suffer losing their child because of war.


MY PROMISE
I promise you dear soldier
to remember what you've done
all the sacrifies you have made
in battles lost and won.

I promise you dear soldier
that you will not have fought in vain
even when the years have come and gone
and only your tombstone does remain

I promise you dear soldier
a poppy I will wear
to show the world I'm proud of you
and that I will always care

I promise you dear soldier
to teach my children well
so that they will always remember
and to their children the stories tell

To you I make this promise
an oath straight from my heart
to never, ever forget you
and that in my life you have a part.

Lest that we forget
the terror that is war
and all that has been given
by those who fought before

written by Maria Sutherland
November 2000

This pledge is meant for every soldier, past, present and future to tell them that although we don't each of them individually that we will still remember them for what they have done to make the world a safer place for us all. If you want a copy of this poem to send to a soldier just email me first and let me know that your passing this poem on to someone who deserves it and needs to know we do care and that what they are doing has meaning to us and it is not all in vain.

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TODAY

Today I took my first life
I pray God understands
this blood upon my hands.
I know that it will haunt me
long after it’s washed away
for this death has scarred my soul
and in my memory it will stay.
I know I didn’t have a choice
that killing is part of war
and it’s something I will continue to do
until I leave this shore.
The old timers say, “Don’t sweat it
a numbness will set in
and in place of your emotions
an emptiness will begin.
“That emptiness will keep you alive
and your sanity intact;
it will kill any pangs of conscience
so you instantly react.
“You can’t let it get to you
or it’ll be you instead of them
and it will be your blood
through which your buddies swim.”

To live I must lose my humanity
but without humanity how do I live
and how do I face the ones I love
if I have no love to give.
I don’t want to feel that emptiness
but in war there is no choice
because it will bring death or insanity
to give your heart a voice.
Today I took my first life
but killing’s the easy part
the hardest will be when I go home
and have to reopen my heart.

©Maria Sutherland

March 2001


Well, I decided to be brave and show the poem I wrote one night about a week ago. I was thinking about all the poems I have read and the talks I've had with veterans and this came to mind. I have composed it in the form of “I”, the first person; please forgive my presumption. M.S.

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I wrote this poem specifically for the Vietnam veterans I have come to know because what happened to them when they came home is unforgiveable. I understand that my daddy and many of the soldier's he went with to the Dutch East Indies came home to a very similar reaction. I've put it beneath TODAY because this poem shows how hard it is for soldier's to do what they need to do, and how the reaction they received on arriving home tore them apart.

Why?
I did as my country asked me
although I was but a boy
I took my rifle in my hand
and to jungle I did deploy.

Nam was so very different
than all I had ever known
and this war wasn’t like the ones
I used to play at home.

But I remember grandpa’s stories
of happiness when he got back
so I held my head up high
and continued on the track.

I was one of the lucky ones
and got a seat on the plane
I couldn’t believe the condemnation
and my country’s disdain.

As tears of disbelief and pain
blurred out that hissing crowd
I had to close my ears and heart
to the insults shouted so loud.

I only did my duty
I fought instead of ran
so why are people ashamed of me
and refuse to shake my hand?

©Maria Sutherland
2001

This poem was written in 1998. The one and only exception that I will make in regards to famous people is Bob Hope, he was a soldier in his heart and gave that heart to everyone. His passing ended something very special, but his memory will always be with us.
WHICH HERO?

He was special
to his family,
to his friends,
to his comrades in arms.
For little pay
hazardous working conditions
he gave without greed
he gave from his heart.
Today he died
sacrificing his life for his country
but no one knows except
his family,
his friends,
his comrades in arms.
They have lost someone special
as has his country
but his country does not know or care
for today a celebrity died
a person of wealth, fame, notoriety
known by everyone for
their commercials,
their wealth,
their product endorsements.
Death has claimed two people today
one a celebrity, a face known to all
the other a soldier, known only to those close to him
both are mourned
for only one
do strangers weep
do they send cards, flowers
is the announcement front page news
is their name and picture on the news
is the church filled to overflowing
are the TV cameras taping the burial
for the other
only his family weeps
only his family, friends and comrades send cards, flowers
the only announcement is under Deaths in the local paper
only his family, friends, comrades know his name
only a few go to the church, many pews are empty
there are no TV cameras taping the burial
Two men died today
one a celebrity
the other a simple soldier
both people are important
both deaths will be felt
but to the country one death is important
a celebrity has died.
What a sad world it is
when a person’s value is measured
by his bank account.

©Maria Sutherland
February 23, 1998

The Poppy Man
An old man stands on the sidewalk
dressed in a uniform
one size to small
five decades old
smelling of mothballs
the last of his regiment
but each crease is sharp
every button gleaming
the collar perfectly starched
on his chest are ribbons and medals
his bearing is erect
pride and dignity shine in his eyes
and in his gnarled hands sits a box
in the box are plastic poppies on a pin
the old man waits for people to notice
he is sure they will stop
take a poppy
and contribute a quarter or two
after all Remembrance Day is coming
they will remember
they will take a poppy to wear
to show their pride and gratitude
He stands patiently
watching as the people walk by
the older people stop
smilke, take a poppy, put a dollar in the can
for they remember as he does
a few others stop,
take a poppy, drop in some change
smile and tell him about
their dad or uncle or grandpa
but they are few
a few snicker
laughing at the old man
commenting on how ridiculous he looks
in his old, too small uniform
standing out in the cold
others look at him with pity
for the poor old man
living in the past
but he continues to stand there
his bearing a little less erect
a moistness gleaming in his eyes
but then he straightens
for he is a soldier
he answered when his country called
he served his nation
with everything he had
he offered his life for others
they will remember
he knows it
some young ones approach
but to him they're all young
it's hard to tell their age
they stop next to him
they understand he thinks
realize what he did
want to honour those died in the war
to say thank you to the few who remain
they know that their freedom was won
by him and others like him
he smiles with pride
then it happens
the one speaks
"It was so long ago"
"ancient history"
"forget about it"
"go home Old Man"
"No one cares anymore"
the old man's face crumbles
tears shine in his eyes
his bearing is no longer erect
the pain radiates around him
far worse pain
than anything caused during the war
he is now nothing but an old man
dressed in a uniform
one size to small
five decades old
smelling of mothballs
with a box of plastic poppies on pins

written by Maria Sutherland Oct. 1998

I wrote this in the hope that when next Veteran's/Memorial Day comes around and Poppies are sitting on counters, or as here in Canada a Veteran with a box of poppies stands out in the cold you don't just walk past, that you stop, take a moment and get a Poppy and wear it for everyone to see. It's such a simple thing that means so much.

To Those Who Fought the War
We have so many freedoms
we live with everyday
that we take for granted
as always being this way.
It can be so easy to forget
that what we've come to know
was won through the blood and tears
of those who fought our country's foe.
Who offered the most precious gift
that anyone can give
they offered up their own lives
so that we may live
Live in a land of freedom
where you can speak your mind
where happiness is a right
and not something for which to pine.
Many gave their lives
on the battlefields of yore
and those that did come home
still live with that war.
It's engaved in their memories
and for some in their body too
it invades a peaceful slumber
with nightmares that are true.
Nightmares of broken bodies
laying all around
the screams of pain and terror
as bombs tear up the ground.
Where would we be without them
these men now old and grey
their willingness to sacrifice
gave us what we have today.
Over half a century's come and gone
since the world last went to war
the soldiers of that era
are almost no more.
Even when the last man
lives on this earth no more
we must continue to remember
him and all who went before
For from the sacrifices of those men
who we must never ignore
came all the things we cherish most
and wouldn't have if Hitler'd won the war.

written by Maria Sutherland

Even though this poem was written for my dad and all the men and women who risked their lives during World War II it still holds true for all the soldier's since then who have and continue to risk their lives to preserve peace throughout the planet. Thank you.

The Soldier's Bond
The horror that is war
never goes away
no matter how many years pass
the memories stay
But for all the ugly pictures
there are some good ones too
of the special bonds that soldiers have
with others that they knew
Only another solider
can truly understand
the depth of love and friendship
that binds the fighting man
To truly trust each other
is difficult to do
but you learn to trust another
as they learn to trust you
There are no words to describe it
the bond these men share
and we'd never understand it
because we weren't there
I'm sure if you say to them,
I wish I had that type of bond
that special trust you share
as one they'd say to you
'NO CHILD I hope you never do
because that means a war again
and all the horror too.
I cherish all the memories
of the men I came to know
that special bond we forged
so many years ago
but those bonds that we made
were so you'd never have to know
all the horror that forged them
and the pain that never goes.'

Written by Maria Sutherland December 1998


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When You Ask
When you ask me questions
that it seems like I ignore
it's because it's just to painful
to talk about the war.
I know you don't understand
and you never will
the pictures locked within my mind
and in my heart still
Unless you were with me
and saw what I still see
you can never know
how devastating war can be
You do whatever you have to
in hopes you'll stay alive
to see another dawn break
in bomber-laden skies
I'm not ashamed of what I did
nor will I ever be
because when my country called
I answered and didn't flee
but what I did and saw
haunts me everyday
no matter how very hard I try
to keep them at bay
so when you ask me questions
and I seem so far away
it's because it's coming back to me
as if it were yesterday
I honestly can't talk to you
the memories I can't share
unless I'm with my comrades
who were aslo there
because they know just how I feel
and feel the same as I do
So when I break down in tears
there's no confusion in their eyes
just the heart-deep understanding
of a soldier's ties
When you ask me questions
that it seems like I ignore
it's because it's just to painful
to talk about the war.

written by Maria Sutherland December 1998

I Understand
I often regret I never asked
about the time you went to war
but now I realize
you'd never let me know
not out of meanness
or shame at what you'd done
but because of the pain
that in those memories lives
we try to understand it
how it can cause pain still
after so many years have passed
but we never will.
Unless you saw the blood spill
felt that constant fear
struggled with your conscience
and the horror of a kill.
I know when you won't talk of it
you're trying to forget
and the tears that shimmer in your eyes
are because of all you saw and did
I wish that I could comfort you
and take the pain away
because of how I love you
you mean the world to me
But that is a part of you
that helped forge who you are
made you the very special man
who I hold close in my heart.

Written by Maria Sutherland December 1998


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My Christmas Wish

There's always one spot empty
that never can be filled
it's been such a long time
but it hurts still
to know that you can't be here
on this special day
when families get together
to laugh, love and play
sometimes amid the laughter
a single tear will fall
wishing you could be here
to share it with us all.
So many things have happened
in the years since you've been gone
the children have all grown up
and now have children of their own
If I could have just one Christmas Wish
that God would make come true
it would be to have you here
and to spend this Christmas with you.
I would love to see your face
when your grandchild comes near
and hear the stories that you'd tell him
of all the past years
I'd love to hear you say once more
Have I told you I love you yet today
and feel you enfold me in your arms
and chase my fears away.
If miracles can happen
and wishes can come true
I pray this one gets answered
so I can be with you
for just this one Christmas
let that empty spot be filled
so you can be here with us
and the hurt I feel be stilled.

written by Maria Sutherland Dec. 11th, 1998

This is to my dad. He didn't pass away until 1976 but he is still very much missed as I am sure there are many others who have someone special that they wish they could spent just one more day with and to me Christmas would be the most wonderful one.

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HOLLAND IS LIBERATED, MAY 5TH 1945
On May 5th, 1945 the Dutch Underground army succeeded in liberating Holland from the German soldiers. It is a very, very important day for Dutch veterans and this May 5th the veterans will march in celebration and remembrance. Prince Bernhard signed the capitulation in Wageningen and he will inspect the veterans by a parade there.
May 4th is very important for the Dutch veterans as well. It is the day they remember all their brothers in arms who were killed in action.

WE ARE FREE

Today we are free
but it is a day of mixed emotions
a day of celebration and mourning
a day of smiles and tears
a day of joy and sorrow.
On this day in 1945
We overcame the enemy
our land became ours once more
but the victory was not free
we paid dearly for our freedom
we paid with lives
the lives of our brothers in arms
So today we celebrate our freedom
with joy and smiles
but also with sorrow and tears
for those we loved and lost
Today we are free.
We wear our uniforms with pride
as we parade for our Prince
our wives, children and grandchild
but in our hearts and minds
we are still captive
captives of the memories of that time
so today we celebrate and mourn
and remember.

TODAY WE ARE FREE

Written by Maria Sutherland 1998

<* * * * * * * * * * * *
I've occasionally been asked to write a poem for a specific event, and I'e decided to share them with everyone who is interested. Sometimes I would write more than one poem about a single event because I was writing it from someone else's perspective and I wanted to make sure I captured the correct emotions and thoughts. The following three were written to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Stoottroepers.
60 Years of Service
Six decades have passed
So long ago
So few of us remain
But our memories are clear
Wasn’t it just yesterday
That we met for the first time
Battle-weary men
Volunteers all
Many old beyond their years
We fought hard to be free
We were resistance fighters
Now others needed us
The Dutch East Indies
Our Prince asked for our help
And we gave it freely.
Six decades have passed
Can it truly be that long ago
We united under our Prince’s command
And named the Stoottroepers?
Now we are old
Our battle is with age and nature
But our memories are clear
So few anniversaries are left
But we will still meet every year
As we have for the last 60 years
To remember
To reminisce
To shed tears for those that have passed on
To renew the bonds
Only the first Stoottroepers share.
We led the way
Remember us always.

Written by Maria Sutherland

Six Decades of Service
We have reached the 21st Century
The year 2004
Sixty year ago
Fresh from a war
Battle-weary men, resistance fighters
Volunteers all
Answered our prince’s call
The Dutch East Indies colony
Needed fighters
Men willing to fight In circumstances never before faced
Guerilla warfare
Jungles
Heat
Malaria And those brave men said yes
They became the Stoottroepers
Storm Troopers for the Prince
They were the first
Stoottroepers

Written by Maria Sutherland


60 Years of Service
Six decades have passed
So long ago
So few of us remain
But our memories are clear
Wasn’t it just yesterday
That we met for the first time
Battle-weary men
Volunteers all
Many old beyond their years
We fought hard to be free
We were resistance fighters
Now others needed us
The Dutch East Indies
Our Prince asked for our help
And we gave it freely.
Six decades have passed
Can it truly be that long ago
We united under our Prince’s command
And named the Stoottroepers?
Now we are old
Our battle is with age and nature
But our memories are clear
So few anniversaries are left
But we will still meet every year
As we have for the last 60 years
To remember
To reminisce
To shed tears for those that have passed on
To renew the bonds
Only the first Stoottroepers share.
We led the way
Remember us always.

Written by Maria Sutherland

Six Decades of Service
We have reached the 21st Century
The year 2004
Sixty year ago
Fresh from a war
Battle-weary men, resistance fighters
Volunteers all
Answered our prince’s call
The Dutch East Indies colony
Needed fighters
Men willing to fight
In circumstances never before faced
Guerilla warfare
Jungles
Heat
Malaria
And those brave men said yes
They became the Stoottroepers
Storm Troopers for the Prince
They were the first
Stoottroepers

Written by Maria Sutherland December 1998


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This poem was written for the May 4, 2005 ceremony for Dutch Veteran Stoottroepers in Australia. I can't remember what I ended up putting as the title.

The war is over
Our country is once more our own
But the cost was high
So many dead
maimed
starving
homeless
hearts, minds and bodies broken
so much pain and anguish
an offer is made to Underground members
volunteer for a mission to the Indies
our colony needs us to free them
their war is not over yet
it will only be for three years then home
and on your return you can choose your job
many went
many had to stay home
someone had to rebuild
On returning from the Indies
There was no job choice
Their old job awaited them
Many were offered a new start
New jobs in a new country
The memories of war could be buried
There would be nothing to remind them of the
Dead
Maimed
Starvation
All the horrors that war brought
It was a way to mend broken hearts and minds
To start anew, make new memories
Many chose to leave but not to forget
their homeland
Family
Friends
Fellow soldiers
All those that died
All those that stayed to rebuild
And how precious freedom is
Written by Maria Sutherland

I know I've written more poems but I'll have to go find them, and then I'll add them to the page.

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