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Friday, May 25, 2018

This is a weekend dedicated to the men and women who have served in the US armed forces

A five years ago, one my dearest friends Joni Mackintosh, lost her uncle Wallace Russell. He was one of the last of our "Greatest Generation." I had the privilege of listening to some of his stories. He served on the old Yorktown CV-10. During the war, he traveled over 36,000 miles. She and her crew were involved in every major battle in the Pacific Theater. This is my tribute to him and the millions of  men and women who served our country during that tumultuous time in history. Because of their sacrifice and service, we are allowed to enjoy our cherished freedoms.



Her steel decks glistened,

In the Virginia sunlight.

The call to arms,

Was a distant sound.

She patrolled the Atlantic,

Dodging U-boats and planes.

She moved through the canal,

Scraping paint and steel.

The mighty Pacific would be her home.

December 7, she rested no more.

Wally answered the call,

Like many of his day.

They boarded the decks,

Prepared to fight the Japs.

The captain said, “American Samoa.”

American what? Where? When?

“And then the Gilberts and Marshalls.”

Gilbert—Sullivan? Glenn—Miller?

“Guys, sounds like a grand time.”

The claxon sounds disrupting the boredom,

“Man battle stations,

Enemy aircraft approaching.”

We ask no questions,

we answer the call.

“All hands to battle stations,

This is not a drill!”

The smoke cleared,

The danger passed.

We breathe a sigh of relief.

Back to Pearl for replenishment.

“Men, next stop Coral Sea.”

Coral what? Where? Why?

“All hands to battle stations.”

She dances on the calm sea,

Avoiding the white tails of death.

We fire fast and furious.

One by one the planes fall.

“Be careful of the boys flying CAP!”

We aim straighter and tighter,

Splash one, splash two, splash…

Thunder and smoke drown our voices.

“Damage control to lower decks!”

Sixty-six dead,

Scores wounded.

A dreadful baptism of fire.

The day was ours,

But the cost?

Back to Pearl,

Replacements, supplies, repairs,

And a needed leave.

“All hands back on board.

Midway is in peril.”

We know the score,

We know the cost,

We know we must fight!

The air fills of tension,

They’re coming, we’re ready.

Despite our efforts,

The battle is shifting,

Scratch three Jap flattops.

The victory is short lived.

She takes one in the stack.

The smell, the carnage of,

diesel, flesh and death.

Boilers down,

Flight deck smashed.

Fragments of comrades stuck on bulkheads,

Planes smoldering, ammunition exploding.

Chaos should reign,

But calm and resolve fill us.

“We will go down fighting!”

The end is near. The day is won,

But the loss is high.

She was my home,

She was my piece of the war,

 As the sun fades, the mighty lady,

succumbs to the sea.

I salute her, one final time.

Closing my eyes for the final salute,

  I join the minds of my comrades,

   submitting my soul to God.


Wallace Russell.

RIP 5-12-2013


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