The Greatest Man

In my life I have had some very scary stuff happen to me, but fear is something I am not used to suffering from or feeling. I don’t fear the unknown, I don’t fear death, I don’t fear most things (Spiders strike the fear into me, but I’m bigger, so it soon passes). One thing has put fear into me and it happened years ago, and today of all days, I remember that fear. It was whilst I was walking and I had already done a similar walk once before on the same day.

It was raining when I stood outside the church, everyone was staring at me, looking awkward. I ignored the rain, didn’t let it bother me, those around me stood in the protection of the church overhang, or beneath umbrellas, I just stood there; numb. I never got chance to say goodbye to my Father, its something that haunts me randomly, although he knew my thoughts of him, I hope that he remembered what I said to him during his last moments. I remember caring him down the aisle of my church, the aisle that I have walked down so many times before, and after. The weight of my father baring down on my shoulder, but I was numb, I didn’t mind the weight. When I placed him down I did so awkwardly, but I stood staring, waiting, unsure of what to do next. After the service I carried him out again and off we went to the Crematorium. It was raining again, and the Military Veterans had prepared the location, so when I carried my Father in I wasn’t prepared. I’ll never forget that walk. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to stop and put my Dad down, stop the entire process. I wanted to get him out, talk to him, make sure this is what he wanted. I was hoping that it was all a joke, but that was the fear. This was it, the final, end journey. I’d never hold him, see him or hear him again and that made me stop, fear struck at my heart.

I overcame my fear in the same moment it struck me, I had to do it, just like I had been taught, not against my will, but by watching my parents through life. I did what my mother and father did through their lives, pick myself up and carry on. Advance into the face of my fear and beat it or lose, but never stop moving forward, no matter what the odds. Throughout the entire process I had been numb to all emotion, people must have thought I didn’t care. The Veterans played the last post, and just as the first note played, it hit me; I cried like a baby, I sobbed so much, I didn’t even hear it end. I marshalled everything I had to stop crying. I did, but it was the worse day of my life

People have good parents, bad parents, okay parents. When people say “I have the best Dad ever!” to that person, they possibly are the best Dad. Without exaggeration though, I did have the best Dad. Not because he is my Dad, but because he would give up everything for Georgina, Mum and myself. He would go hungry to feed the family, he was a teacher, rarely let his temper get the better of him. For his family he would do everything in his power for them, help them when they needed him, do things for them they couldn’t do. He would help anyone outside of his family, supporting people whenever they needed him, providing money or equipment to those who needed it. He was always a friend to my friends, and my Sisters, never embarrassing, always supportive and joking around. And no matter what, he always smiled and could make anyone laugh, in any situation. So without exaggeration, other Dads pale in comparison, not because I say so, because he was the most selfless person I have ever met. Even during his final weeks he planned his own funeral, so not to have to put his immediate family in a uncomfortable situation; even the funeral director was shocked. My Dad had balls of steel, he had enough proof of that.

So why am I saying this? My Dads gone, and he died on the 21st of August 2007. I’m not saying your Dads shit, I don’t want someone with an ego issue throwing their tits around in excitement. When my father passed away, I lost my idol, the man I could never be, but yet strive to be like. I am sharing the worse day of my life, yet within that day the best of me came out. Since then I have struggled, every single day, but for others the struggle is worse. I cannot imagine how my Sister feels, and I will never come close to feeling how my Mother does. Yet, each persons feelings are different, each struggle unique to that person.

Every time that song plays, every time I see a father and son playing together, my heart breaks. My friend, Dave Olsen (Blog plug moment), wrote a great blog about what it means to be a great Dad. Being a great Dad is everything he pointed out, apart from one thing he forgot to mention: sacrifice. When you bring that life into the world, you need to show, teach, tell, nurture, care for, assist, guide, love, cherish, talk…THAT is what it means to be a great Dad. There is not a day that goes by where I wish I could pick up a phone and have a five minute chat with my Dad, even if it was to say “L Lu D.” and hear the reply “D Lu L”.

RIP Ron.
Dad, you will be missed x

The Greatest Man

I wasn’t there to say goodbye,
Neither did I hear your cry,
My sister bore that pain alone,
I wish I would have just come home.

Days had past the family low,
The funeral plans everyone had to know,
I spread your plans that I had to hear,
Your own words spoken without fear.

They brought you home for all to see,
Privacy was what we wanted it to be,
My mother never left your side,
She held your hand with a Wife’s dear pride.

That day did come to carry you away,
To the place in the sky so far away,
Down the aisle I carried you to and fro,
Goodbye Old man `tis time to go.

The years have past the pains still raw,
The void you left we can’t ignore,
We carry on but we never forget,
The greatest man we ever met.

The Rain (Afghan Ruin) – Poem

Sometimes when I write poetry, its usually charged by an emotional response to something that is affecting myself.  For example, during the early days of June it was regarding the loss of Mike Forge, which impacts me because of how it impacted my father.  Tomorrow is Fathers day, and as I browsed the shop earlier today for a Fathers day Card (not for my Dad) a thought came to my mind.  One of the things that impacted us as a family, and still does in a differing form, was PTSD.  PTSD is something that people struggle with, in and out of conflicts involving war, but its something that a lot of soldiers hide.  They hide it through fear of being weak, being seen to be inferior, which is often a soldiers worst enemy (other times its himself).  My Dad, although he never admitted it, suffered from PTSD and, surprisingly, so does my Mother (for a different, private reason).  Its a tough thing to live around, the constant mood swings, random moments of darkness; but its totally acceptable in my book.  Many don’t understand it, deal with it or come to terms with it, and their families often ostracize them.  Many are left alone, and sadly when that happens, death’s knock isn’t too far behind.  Its tragic, and absolutely avoidable, but unseen by too many. 

Thinking of that I wrote a poem, I am not the best scribe, although I am trying to change that through practice.  Its titled “The Rain (Afghan Ruin)” as when I starting writing it a couple of days ago, my mind went towards those coming back from Afghanistan, with little or not welcome home.  Yet reading it back now, its appropriate to most veterans.  My Dad said when he arrived back on the boat from the Falklands, the main task force had received a heroes welcome, yet he’d been stuck on a boat for months.  Not the best environment for PTSD; packed into a boat, nothing to take your mind away from the thoughts that ran through your mind.  Add to that no flag waving when he arrived, not a heroes welcome, just business as usual. 


The Rain (Afghan Ruin)

The rain swept hard against his face,
As he looked around this alien place,
All his friends they looked around too,
Brothers in arms on this foreign ground,
Unknown to them what would come,
That no matter what their bond,
Would never be undone.

The rain swept hard against his face,
From down the line a voice was raised,
“MAN DOWN!” and all their faces drained,
The run to the chopper whilst his life ebbed away,
Feeling helpless as there was nothing to say,
As no one knew what truly happened that day.

The rain swept hard against his face,
Kicked out the army what a disgrace,
When he came home with what he’d faced,
No crowds cheered or waved,
To them they were monsters best left for the grave,
Fighting was his crime and his CO said no,
Nothing was left now and he had to go.

The rain swept hard against his face,
As he remembers friends faces,
That light no longer graces,
Alone he stands as he opens his eyes,
He looks up and see the black skies,
As he pleads with God to let him die,
He takes that step and as he looks down,
He places a wreath onto the ground,
Attached a plaque for comrades down,
Buried beneath on political grounds.

The rain swept hard against his face,
To people around him the skies were clear,
Clouds around him though were black with fear,
The lightning of guilt that no one could hear,
That’s when his eyes glass over and he drifts off into space,
He remembers that day when the rain swept hard against his face.

© Leonard Smith

Shattered

Image

June 5/6 is a day I never forget.  Not because I am a world war 2 buff, obviously D-Day was an important day in history, but I remember it for another more personal reason.  The Falklands Conflict, as you may gather, as a special place in my heart.  For years my idol, Ron Smith, spoke with such emotion about his time in the army, and most specifically, the Falklands.  He told me his tales of Buff Cove and how he helped during the San Carlos tragedy.  However for him, June 5/6 sticks out most in his mind. 

My Dad, during his time in the army, was a man who loved to learn (I guess that’s where I get it from).  He couldn’t just be a ReBro in the Signals, so he learnt another language.  Then he studied photography, then he got his Wings with the A.A.C. (Army Air Corp for you civilians) and did some time flying.  Then he studied bomb disposal, the army back then LOVED a multi-tasking man, these days you do one trade or another, rarely getting more experience than what you need to do for the job you do; Budget sense.  He was a master of all of his trades and he fascinated me with some of his tales from his exploits, also some of the pictures he took where outstanding.

On June 5/6 my father had a perforated eardrum, a painful thing to suffer from, but in war you carry on.  On June 5 a rebro on Mount Pleasant went down, wasn’t communicated properly and it was required that a team fly up to the top and find out what was going wrong.  My father, knowing the AAC crew of the Gazelle, decided that he would fly up, with Joe Baker and find out what was wrong.  That’s when a long time father figure, personal friend and mentor to my Dad, Mike Forge stepped in and told him to sit out, as his eardrum won’t do him any favours.  Mike, ever the leader from the front, decided he’d go up to the top instead and do my Dads job for him, so he didn’t have to go through any unnecessary pain.  Brothers in arms.  Sadly the helicopter was shot down in a Blue-on-Blue incident and all four crew died.

Now Mike taught my father how to parachute, making my Dad (one of his famous “Pointless Dad Trivia” moments that he loved to declare at parties) the youngest parachutest, at the time, in England making his first jump with Mike.  Mike, and I am sure anyone who had the honour of knowing the man will agree, was a leader who lead from the front.  Part of the famous 216 Para-Sigs, he was a cut above the rest.  Mike left behind no family, wife or children and he was an only child.

So for me I remember this day for Mike, and my Dad, who constantly blamed himself for the loss of Mike.  But, as I have stated before, without that man I wouldn’t have had a father to make me the man I am today.  So, raise a glass to the fallen heroes, who lie on Mount Pleasant:  Major Michael Lancaster Forge, S/Sgt John Baker, S/Sgt Christopher Griffin and L/Corporal Simon Cockton.  We shall never forget.


Shattered

Those four boys,
Lying still,
Shattered wings,
Amongst morning dew,
There wings of flight,
Far had flown,
But a boy,
Stood alone,
His wings intact,
His soul in tatters,
It should have been him,
Was all that mattered.

25 years later,
He stood where they lay,
On June 6th that day,
His head was down,
His soul laid bare,
He couldn’t see them,
Standing there,
Smiles on all four,
A pilgrimage he’d made,
To visit their grave,
United at last,
Five blokes together,
Just like the past.

Now he’s not here,
It’s down to me,
Mount Pleasant they lay,
My fathers here with me,
They walk together,
Five heroes I see,
Three wearing Jimmy’s,
Two from the AAC,
Smiles all round,
Beers for Victory,
Someone remembers,
I guess that’s me,
Five heroes gone,
No pleasure is found,
As I pray for the heroes,
Buried in the ground.

© Leonard Smith

Poem

I usually write on the bus, I am unsure why.  I try to recall what motivates me to write whilst I’m moving, maybe its something of a side step of when you drive babies around to make them sleep.  With me I think it is that I get more creative as things pass me by, or maybe its because I have a more random mash of humanity sitting and moving around me.  I love writing, but it frustrates me that I get 95% of my writing done on buses.  Maybe I should get a chauffer to just drive me around all day, but then I’d need to earn a damn sight more than I already am to be-able to do that.  Or a better working environment, which is something I am working towards at the moment.  Anyhow, here is the poem I wrote today, it strikes a cord with my current memories in regards of my father and the Falklands.  I think it captures how anyone who has any working moral compass what so ever should also feel like.


Suffer the Memory

As I stand here,
A tear in my eye,
I fully appreciate,
That it isn’t a lie,
That war is hell,
No soldier can deny,
As we try to forget,
Those years gone by,
But if we forget,
We leave those behind,
So we suffer the memory,
So that theirs never dies.

© Len Smith

Air Red (Poem)

I wanted to touch on the opposite side of the Falklands War, the Argentines. Granted they started the whole thing, but I feel that often human nature isn’t human at all, but more animalistic. Many people who went down south fought tooth and nail for the bloke next to him, not for the flag, or pride, but for the right of a human to make a decision. Most times the Argentines flew them missions knowing it would be a one way job, and that takes balls of steel. Sadly they aren‘t remembered like our boys are, our boys have a network of grateful individuals, friends, colleges and brothers in arms that remember them. So remember in war, no one wins, especially those who have no one to remember them.
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Air Red

They came from the sea those bastards in blue, they wanted to sink us just like Pompeii, to the bottom of Bomb Alley at San Carlos Bay.

They flew like the clappers no fear in their eyes, and as it appeared the devil on their side, low and fast hard as nails, those Argies could fly and it looked like we’d fail.

The Navy stood fast and our Flyboys could kill, but young boys were dying, the sea was stained red and history wouldn’t forget them, how oft we do to those Argies wearing blue.

Outnumberd outgunned they flew and flew, against the RAF and Navy too, they had no choice nor any fear, they dropped their bombs and would disappear.

Our Forces did suffer but fought till the end, “Six better fuses and we would have lost” was said, but war has no winner when young boys die, especially those Argies, boy could they fly.