SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS
Patriotism runs deep in my family. My dad was a Marine and my Grandfather was Army, his service in the Pacific in WWII recognized with a Bronze Star. At six years old I was out on street corners in my little coat and tie selling red paper poppies to support the American Legion. I grew up in a house where you bought meals for soldiers in restaurants and never passed a soldier walking that you didn't stop and offer them a ride. That last habit once took me from Durham NC to Washington DC via Norfolk to make sure a stranded sailor was standing tall at 0600. Somewhere above the clouds my Grandpa smiled quietly that morning.
This love led me to write numerous patriotic poems that have appeared in publications ranging from Stars & Stripes, The Washington Times to literally thousands of websites, magazines, newspapers and journals as well as holding award-winning status in the International War Veteran’s Poetry Archive. They have appeared in charitable support for programs such as the Wounded Warrior Project and included in care packages sent to soldiers around the world. As a result I was deeply honored to accept membership in the 390th Strategic Missile Wing Alumni Association as well as being named the Poet Laureate of the 9th Infantry Division (SONID). The poem When Titans Walked hangs as part of the permanent display at the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona. What a great bunch of guys they are.
I never really set out to become a poet - for me this effort began on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th, 2000, when I just wanted to share a small word of thanks to the troops who sacrificed so much to keep this nation safe. To my amazement that poem, A Soldier's Christmas, became an internet sensation and appeared everywhere. People read them at events, school kids memorized them for readings, one class performed one for a Veteran's Day presentation. I've even seen renditions on YouTube. It is still a bit surreal when I meet somebody in places that have ranged from Alaska to Afghanistan who on hearing my name asks "Are you the guy who wrote the soldier poem?"
The most treasured recognition however remains the numerous letters that continue to arrive from service men and women, from their families and friends, who take the time to share their responses. It is humbling beyond words to correspond with a mom who lost her son in the World Trade Center, or with family members waiting for loved ones to come home.
To this day these poems continue to circulate every December. Gracious media figures like Thom Richards at WOKO radio or the team of Paul Bryan and Joe Cantafio have produced incredible musical renditions that air annually across the country as part of their Soldier's Christmas Project. Most recently, country music superstar Michael Martin Murphey produced a musical rendition of A Soldier's Christmas which was performed before cheering crowds on his national Cowboy Christmas tour.
As fate would have it, I got the chance to experience my own Christmas in Afghanistan in 2011. We found a little scrap of an artificial tree, maybe a foot tall. The decorations all had meaning, from the polished brass cartridge cases to the emblems of units our guys served in, colleges we attended (Go Gators!) and even our little bomb robot. The American Flag waved proudly on top. The tree was small and leaned over to one side a bit but there on the far side of the world away from family and friends it was the prettiest tree I could remember.