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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Memorial Day - My Grandfather & Poetic Fields


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  As we enter the Memorial Day weekend, my thoughts turn to the grandfather I never met.  He died four years before I was born.  I blogged about him before, I'm sure, and know I used this picture, though I can't put my finger on that post at the moment! 


John Hollingsworth Conditt was born in 1900, though he lied about his age to join the Army in World War I in 1917.  (Official records say either 1898 or 1899.) Both of his parents died in 1917; I'm guessing from the influenza pandemic? He was a fiesty one, a drinker and a fighter in his youth, as my mother Nita remembers being told.  From my forays through family trees and on Ancestry.com, his line of folks seems to be the most livelly and interesting in the family, on both his mother's and father's sides!  But I digress. 


He was wounded in France, was sent back and patched up, and returned to the fight.  Then he went with the Army to China for a bit.


My mother also told me once that after he returned home to Arkansas, he saw my grandmother working in a field and told his buddy, "I'm going to marry her."  And, he did!  Outside on the street, evidently, as her father had some sort of objection.  


He was reserved and devoted to his family.  In my living room I have a wooden box with maps pasted on the inside, something he made for my mother to put her doll in.  They were dirt poor tenant farmers, but they could make and make do like nobody's business. My grandmother bore six children, losing one as an infant and another at the age of four.  Times were hard.  My mother was the baby. 


She said her daddy never talked about the war.  As I was researching a few years ago, I discovered on his "Headstone Application for Military Veterans" that someone had written in "Silver Star" and "Purple Heart" in red pencil.  Looking at a few more of these types of applications, it looks like red marks were made by the government staff members who reviewed the applications.  Though he got himself into a bit of trouble during his service, my mother recalls, he was honorably discharged in 1922. In World War I, the award was called the "Citation Star" - the Silver Star was retroactively awarded to those recipients.  I only recently discovered that on his actual grave marker, it does say "SS" and "PH"!  The Silver Star is awarded for "gallentry in action" and is the third highest award for combat valor.


I've only seen one giant list online of majojr mililtary award recipients and didn't see his name listed (though a very close name attributed to WWII), but the list said the absence of a name should not be interpreted to mean one's family member did not receive the Silver Star.  So it's still a bit of a mystery, one I might have to hire a professional to help track down if possible.


My mother says she doesn't remember her father smiling.  Times were certainly different.  And those who came back from the front lines 100 years ago didn't have the resources we have available today.  (My psychiatrist hubby worked for 10 years with Marines and members of the Navy before starting his current job.)


Thanks for reading this family ramble.  I'm sharing two poems, a famous one associated with WWI, and an older one with a couple of similar images but NOT about war.  


Deep gratitude to everyone who wears or has worn a uniform, and to their families, especially those whose grief will be especially keen this weekend. 



In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

(1872 – 1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.



This one was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who died a decade before John McCrae was born. I wish peace like this for all who face any kind of battle.



Out in the Fields

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


The little cares that fretted me
   I lost them yesterday,
Among the fields above the sea,
   Among the winds at play,
Among the lowing of the herds,
   The rustling of the trees,
Among the singing of the birds,
   The humming of the bees.


The foolish fears of what might happen.
   I cast them all away
Among the clover-scented grass,
   Among the new-mown hay,
Among the husking of the corn,
  Where drowsy poppies nod
Where ill thoughts die and good are born--
  Out in the fields with God.


This Just In - My mother read the post and offered a few more details that tugged at my heart:


"Flanders Fields" always brings tears and memories of Poppies which Daddy loved and respected. He always made sure we each had a red poppy to wear on National Poppy Day, which is the Friday before Memorial Day....TODAY! He always donated $10.00 to The American Legion to help provide Poppies which were given to people to wear. We kids gave him our 'savings' to help. $10.00 was a lot of money! ... I know we sometimes would donate and wear a poppy when you were young...American Legion members would be on street corners or in front of stores. Do you remember?


I do seem to remember those little red poppies, with paper-covered wires to wrap around a button or such I think. 


Thanks again for reading along.  Start your long weekend off with all kinds of poetry (and art) at More Art 4 All with Michelle (& blow out a birthday streamer in her honor!).


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Poetry Friday - Memorial Day

We live in a military town. In fact, when you drive into Beaufort and pass the Marine Corps Air Station on your left, you'll see a billboard which says, 'The "Noise" You Hear Is The Sound Of Freedom.'

I think of that phrase when I hear the familiar roar overhead, more roars than ever since The U.S. Marine Corps opened the doors of the first dedicated F-35B Pilot Training Center here a couple of years ago, training the next generation of pilots flying the F-35 Lightning II. I remember when we first moved here, we went downtown to help welcome those new military personnel, and as usual, there was music and and lots of giddy kids running around the Waterfront Park lawn and warm speeches by local dignitaries. And fireworks. This town loves fireworks. It was fun to see such support, from both sides of the political aisle I'm certain, coming together to honor our men and women in uniform and their young families.

I really have gotten used to the sound of jets darting across the sky, almost like they are resident birds! Loud birds.

We have neighbors who are pilots, male and female, and there is certainly something about putting faces with the sounds of those jets, and with stories on the news from across the world, that makes the dedication of our service personnel more real and personal to me. I wish them safety, pray for their safe returns from deployments, and appreciate that they put themselves in harm's way to serve our country. They are very fine folks who take their work seriously, and we miss them when they are away.

This weekend, of course, we honor those men and women who have given their very lives in such service. Words fail, but we hold their families in thoughts and prayers.

Memorial Day
a flag flutters above
its shadow

©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.

Frogpond, Volume 36:1, Winter 2013

Many thanks to all who serve or have served, and to those who support them.

Please join the super-talented Julie Larios today for this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at The Drift Record.
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