Eight months after Ann and I were married, I completed work on my master’s degree at the University of North Carolina. Within a few weeks I entered the United States Army, and, following basic training, the remainder of my military service was overseas. I told the story in last week’s post titled “In the Army Now”.
My dear wife Ann waited for me faithfully during those long months when I was in the Army and far from home. After a brief leave in February 1953, I was not to see her again for nineteen months.
There is an old, old tradition about wearing a yellow ribbon as a tribute to someone (usually a soldier or sailor) who is away from home and hearth. Eventually someone put the thought to music.
Around her hair, she wore a yellow ribbon
She wore it in the springtime
In the merry month of May
And if you ask her why the heck she wore it
She wore it for her soldier who was far, far away
I don’t know that Ann ever wore a yellow ribbon, but I do know she honored the spirit of that tradition.
I missed my wife and family very much. I believe that I wrote Ann almost every day that I was in Korea — sometimes twice. Never before or since have I written so many letters. I even tried my hand at poetry in an attempt to express my love for her and my longing to be home. I remember composing several of them in my mind as I stood sentry duty in the middle of the night. As examples, the following are two of the several poems I wrote and sent to Ann during those seemingly endless months:
On the night we met there were no guitars,
No soft Debussy no flowing fountains,
No dining by torch light under the stars,
No warm, rose-hued glow from distant mountains.
I don’t remember well our introduction.
I’m not certain I even got your name.
No meteors rushed earthward to destruction,
And in my heart there was no burst of flame.
Link by link, the chain has grown enduring,
And strand by strand the garland has been spun.
Day by day with you is more alluring
Because of all the things you’ve said and done.
Sometimes the greatest love on tiptoe comes
Without the sound of trumpets or of drums.
Since you have already read my account of meeting Ann for the first time, you will realize that this particular poem is not notable for its accuracy. Indeed, I carried artistic license to its limits. I met Ann at church after the morning service, not at night. There wasn’t a good-sized hill, much less a mountain, within two hundred miles of where we met, so there wasn’t much chance of that “rose-hued glow”. Also, perhaps it’s true that I didn’t catch Ann’s name when we first met (I’ve never been good at that), but I really doubt that bit about “no burst of flame”. After all, I may have been a rather slow country boy, but I wasn’t completely dead. She had sparkling blue eyes, beautiful blonde hair, lovely features, and a smile that would melt the Greenland ice cap.
There was some truth in the poem along with the blarney – we did meet, we did fall in love, and my love for her was growing deeper with every passing day.
A second poem read as follows:
I dream of you, I cherish you, each second of each hour.
To me you are the petals and the fragrance of each flower.
You are the shining star that is the sentinel of night.
You are the dawn when dark is gone, you are my sunshine bright.
You are the hope that fills my heart to fullest measure.
You are the one and only girl I ever want to treasure.
To you I give my loving heart, my life forevermore,
With all the joys I own today and all that are in store.
I only want your happiness forever and forever,
And to be with you now – and never leave you, never.
I can still feel the longing expressed in that poem, even after all these years.
Ann in early 1954
Thinking of her soldier who was far, far away
Say a prayer sometimes for all those men and women who are serving our country far from their loved ones at home.