I first saw him on a park bench

I've seen him every day

Sitting in a shady grove

Where my children come to play

Sometimes he feeds the birds and squirrels

Or whittles little toys

Sometimes he just sits and smiles

At the laughing girls and boys

And I never paid him any mind

Till one day just this year

I noticed that he wore a frown

And on his cheek; a tear.

Well I asked him why he seemed so down

He looked up, began to say

I lost half my friends 50 years ago today

He told me of the terror

As he fought to reach dry land

By the time the beachhead was secure

Half his friends lay in the sand

That was just in one long day

He fought on for 4 years more

And the 50 years from then to now

Have not dimmed His sights of war

He said they have reunions

Just to keep in touch and share

And for each comrade who has gone on

They leave an empty chair

Well, His park bench has been empty now

About 6 months or so

And if I'd never took the time

Then I never would've known

That sitting on that simple bench

With bread crumbs and little toys

Was a man who gave his all

To guarantee my daily joys

So give thanks to all the men and women

Who are still here or have gone before

And made the highest sacrifice

In both Peace time and in War

Because they bought our freedom

Paid their own blood, sweat, and tears

Then endured the heartache of those empty chairs

For all these years

So please do not ignore them

Or speed by without a care

Cause you never know

When you might pass by

A hero, unaware

By Mark A. Wright

22 June, 2000

The old man in this story is an amalgam of my grandfather who used to sit in a chair behind his house and tell me stories of WWI after I came in from the fields at the end of the day. He was mustard-gassed there, fighting with modern weapons, but using mules.

Of Noris Tanton, of Commerce Texas, who barely made it off the ship with his life at Pearl December 7th, 1941. And all the other WWII survivors I have talked to throughout the years.

My father-in-law, James Rowse of Wolfe City Texas, who, even though he fought in Korea, graciously considers me a Comrade in Arms because of my Naval Submarine service over the last 18 years.

Lowell Clemens, Jim Sullivan, and all the other Viet Nam Vets who I have had the privilege of knowing and serving with.

And lastly, all the people like Barry Shay, Thomas Galliher, Mark Heithaus, Patrick Rourk, Chip Green, Chip Sumner, Tony Zilar and the list goes on, that I have served with on Submarines and Surface Ships, with the Marines, in clinics, Hospitals and school for all these years of turbulent peace. My heroes Unaware. Thanks

Last PMS Performed December 30, 2005