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Miscellaneous: Poems

The Parachutist’s creed

“I volunteered as a Parachutist, fully realizing the hazards of my chosen service--and by my thoughts and by my actions will always uphold the prestige, honor and high esprit-de-corps of the only volunteer branch of the Army.

I realize that a Parachutist is not merely a soldier who arrives by parachute to fight, but is an elite shock trooper and that his country expects him to march farther and faster, to fight harder, to be more self-reliant and to soldier better than any other soldier. Parachutists of all allied armies belong to this great brotherhood.

I shall never fail my fellow comrades by shirking any duty or training, but will always keep myself mentally and physically fit and shoulder my full share of the task, whatever it may be.

I shall always accord my superiors fullest loyalty and I will always bear in mind the sacred trust I have in the lives of the men I will lead into battle.

I shall show other soldiers by my military courtesy to my superior officers and non-commissioned officers, by my neatness of dress, by my care of my weapons and equipment that I am a picked and well trained soldier.

I shall endeavor always by my soldierly appearance, military bearing and behavior, to reflect the high standards of training and morale of parachute troops.

I shall respect the abilities of my enemies, I will fight fairly and with all my might. Surrender is not in my creed.

I shall display a higher degree of initiative than is required of other troops and will fight on to my objective and mission, though I be the lone survivor.

I shall prove my ability as a fighting man against the enemy on the field of battle, not by quarreling with my comrades in arms or by bragging about my deeds, thus needlessly arousing jealousy and resentment against parachute troops.

I shall always realize that battles are won by an army fighting as a team, that I fight and blaze the path into battle for others to follow and to carry the battle on.

I belong to the finest fighting unit in the Army. By my appearance, actions, and battlefield deeds alone, I speak for my fighting ability. I will strive to uphold the honor and prestige of my outfit making my country proud of me and of the unit to which I belong.”

“The human or a veteran”

Half asleep, I looked at the man. A 86-year-old was walking through my salon. It was half past five in the morning and the sun made an attempt to come up. The old man mumbled something, grabbed his back and cursed. A cup of tea with honey was on the cupboard, waiting for the user. Again there was a curse. "That goddamn pain."
The man swallowed a lot of pain medication. And he had a lot of pain. He had long been in a lot of pain. I could not help him with that pain. I could only stand by and watch how he struggled. Joe stayed several nights in Bo Temps. Thanks to my good friend Marco, I had the chance to meet Joe. I expected a veteran, but soon I saw someone else.
Outside the ceremonies Joe was a human being. A grumpy old man with a heart of gold. Grumbling about how he was robbed, grumbling about the weather and grumbling about his pain. Joe enjoyed the good times of the little things. He enjoyed Tom and Ben, he enjoyed the butterfly that landed on a flower and he enjoyed the conversations. We did not talk about the war. If he wanted to talk about that, he knew that was possible. But he enjoyed and avoided speaking about the war.
Occasionally Joe dreamed away and I saw him struggling with the things he had witnessed. Joe was involved in a bayonet attack outside Rochelinval. Since then he has a thing with knives. During lunch I saw him stiffen and focus on his knife. It was only a fraction of a second, but I saw it. Here’s that flashback, back to January 1945.
During the conversations he told me how he was cheated. Those around him, those who held their hands out for items of the war. Profiteers, thieves. I saw Joe as a soldier. Joe is a human. A man with a past. A hard, devastating and traumatic past.
I went with Joe and the police officers of North Brabant police department. We attended three ceremonies. In Ardennes Cemetery, Henri Chapelle and Magraten. Over there Joe was a veteran. There he stood stiffly at attention, salute, tribute to his fallen comrades and there he was biting off his endless pains .
Here Joe was the old warrior, who had many admirers. Everybody wanted him on the photo. Everyone wanted to shake his hand. And everyone wanted something. Something? Yes, something. A moment with a veteran, which you later could say that you know Joe well. Joe the Veteran. But Joe is a man and he deserves respect as a person.
I visited Mr. Andre Hubert with Joe. A man I respect deeply. Hubert knows many, many things about the Battle of the Bulge. Hubert knows Joe. So we went to visit Mr. Hubert. Mr.Hubert sees Joe as a man. They had fun. They had some small talk. Mr. Hubert gave a book to Joe. Hubert: “I can better give this to someone who has use for it, I will soon die anyway”. Dumbfounded, I looked for the 82-year-old Hubert to the 86-year-old Joe. Two elderly, still so full of life.
Joe departed in July to France, as a man. But even there he would be honored as a veteran. Joe, the veteran.
Joe, a mighty fine man, haunted by a past which did not want to let him go. Over and over he visited the battlefields, he always tried to give his memories a place in his mind. And this time it was the last time he would be in the Ardennes. It was good for him.
I have a deep respect for the man and the veteran Joe. A very special encounter with a melancholy edge.

July, 2010, by Bob Konings, Grandmenil