An American Child Prisoner of War

For My Grandfather On Memorial Day

There is mostly light filling his life,

He is young, strong, he is American.

A peaceful man, taken from his quiet life of sales in 1944

And asked to defend his country.

Life changes, plans fall, he is from a generation who does not run.

He will not run.

He stands up and is poised to fight for Her.

He lands on the ground, in Europe, fighting…

For his own life.

It is January, 1944

He is captured.

He is a prisoner of war.

An American boy

German-kept month and then months.

Starved until he may not walk again.  Starved until he may not live.

He is an American boy

He will not fall so easily,

He rises from the starvation

He stands again.

Not as straight and not as tall

But he stands because he will not let men of hatred crush him or Her.

He is an American boy

He stands proud.

He sees Europe

By foot

He is marched and marched and marched,

Month to month to year,

Until he cannot move.

He learns to cut hair to improve his standing, to stay sane.

He marches until the starvation makes him fall…again.

They say he will not stand again.

But it is 1945

The war is over

He is free.

An American Boy

The prisoner of war returns to Her.

 

He is skin and bones,

Others stare at him, his protruding bones,

They cannot understand.

He will not leave the dinner table.

He will not waste what he once longed for.

He will not leave the table until each plate is bare.

Long after all have pushed out their chairs and walked,

George will still be sitting, eating, appreciating.

Thankful for the food and careful not to let

One single precious crumb be tossed away.

Wasted like he was in those sixteen months.

Those who have never left the bounties of America cannot understand.

He is free but he is never free of his memories

Never free from his starvation.

Five decades will pass and he will still fear

Not having enough.

An American boy

The calendar says he is 89 and now another war has come.

This time the Persian Gulf.  This time men and women fight.

The new war stirs old wounds

George fights the old battle in his memory

It is hard to tell the difference between what is now and what is memory.

His body is fading

He is fighting the war still.  In the hospital.

He is starving again

There is mostly darkness.

An American boy

Decades have changed him

War has not changed.

He cannot see war again

His mind cannot relive the ache that still breathes

Inside the darkness within him

New prisoners of a desert war are taken

The same and yet different,

They are women this time

With grace and forgiveness, George’s body gives way before he can see

The faces of the new POWs

The faces of women who have replaced him.

He goes before he has to see

Them living the nightmare of his war life over again.

Or, perhaps, he has to go

And be with them.

Lend his strength, His knowing, His awareness

To them

Because only he can know

The depths of what they will need

What they will see

And how, in their mind, they will never stop being that

American Child

Prisoner of War.

POW George Anderson, held by the Germans for 16 months during WWII, passed on March 24, 2003, before he could see the new POWs.  An amazing man and my grandfather.

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