Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Semper Fi Christmas

Semper Fi Christmas
By John A. Wilson

When we
Fought at
Beleau Woods
I helped take
The deadly peak
Of Suribachi Hill
I held you close to
Try and keep you warm
At the Chosin Reservoir
I covered your back in the
Jungles and rice paddies as
You did your very best in Nam
I flew high cover for you above
The blazing oilfields of the gulf
Wherever you may have been, Marine
Beside you I have stood as companion
And protector, your Lord, Savior and God.
And I will

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


By John A. Wilson

For forty years now
The grass has grown
Over the man that she still loves

Her body’s now frail
Her hair snowy white
But a twinkle still shines in her eyes

Her life has been hard
Her journey so long
To see all of her children grown

With her love she raised
The six of us
Three girls, three boys and a dream

For we are her gift
To all of the world
In hope that we will succeed

To leave the world
A better place
Than it was before we came

We six are the gift
She gave to the world
And the world was her gift to us

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First part of Chapter 1: Kreya of the Adenians

Kreya of the Adenians

Chapter 1
n a small, rocky ledge on the side of a steep mountain stood a solitary figure.  While not toweringly so, he was fairly tall with long fair hair twisted into long braids at the side and tied with rawhide strips.  His face was striking with dark, piercing eyes, prominent cheekbones and a thick moustache. A brushy beard a couple of shades darker than his hair rounded out the handsome face. The wide shoulders sloped downward a bit due to thick pectoral muscles. His powerful arms were bare except for rawhide bands tied above each bicep muscle.  The muscular chest and abdomen were covered by a deerskin vest. His buckskin pants were tucked into the top of moccasins that came almost to his knees.  From the belt around his narrow waist hung a knife with an expertly knapped flint blade attached to a handle of deer horn, and stuck into the belt was this warrior’s most prized possession.  A bronze-headed hatchet on a handle as long as the distance from his bent elbow to the tip of his fingers was as much a mark of his status in the community as it was a formidable weapon and indispensable tool. 
          This was Kreya.  He had journeyed for three days to reach this high promontory in what his people called the Southern Mountains.  From here on this little rocky perch Kreya could see the whole lush green valley that separated the Southern Mountains from the Northern Mountains.  While the Southern Mountains were substantial, they were neither as high nor as massive as the Northern Mountains.  The Northern Mountains marked the northern border of the people who lived in this land.  In the language of the people, it was called Adenia, which meant simply “our land.”  The people who lived here called themselves the Adenians, or “people of the land.” The Adenian people knew of only three trails through the Northern Mountains and it was seldom that any of the people ventured through them.  As far as the Adenians were concerned the people that lived on the other side of those mountains could stay where they were and the Adenians would stay in this, their land. 
          Kreya had come to this spot for a reason.  He had carried in his pack enough food for the journey here and back.  He planned to be here on this little shelf of rock for at least three days, but while here, he would not eat at all and would drink only sparingly from the bison bladder that held his water.  This little ledge had been used for more generations than the tribal elders could remember whenever an Adenian needed to commune with the spirits of the ancestors. 
The ledge was about three paces wide and two good steps from the mouth of the little cave at the back of the ledge would send you over the edge of the high cliff that dropped almost vertically several hundred feet. Standing at the edge of the cliff, Kreya could see almost all of the valley below that would take a man five days to walk across.  Somewhere off to his right, Kreya knew, was the summer camp of the Adenians.  At the back of the ledge was a small cave.  Actually, it barely could hold claim to such a lofty title.  It was an indentation into the rock no more than the length of a man’s body deep and just twice that wide.  While Kreya could almost stand straight up at the mouth of the cave, at the back it was not as high as a kneeling man. 
After taking a few minutes to enjoy the panoramic view from the cliff’s edge and to take a few deep breaths of the clean mountain air, Kreya bent to the work that he knew he must do to prepare for the ordeal that he was about to engage in.  Kreya untied the leather thongs that held his pack together and unrolled the bearskin that served as the bag and would also be his sleeping fur.  Kreya took from the unrolled pack the small amount of food it contained and stowed it as far back in the cave as he could then laid the bearskin near the rear of the cave.  Also contained in the bearskin were two wolf hides and a two leather bags.  In one bag were the tools that Kreya would need to start a fire along with a few things he may need here in his little camp.  The other contained ground-up fragrant herbs.  When burned in Kreya’s campfire the herbs would give off a very pleasant-smelling smoke that would help Kreya to get in touch with the ancestors.
While the journey up to this isolated place was difficult and the ordeal that he was about to face would be hard, Kreya’s heart was light.  The reason that he had made this journey and would fast here for three days was because his wife had recently given birth to a son.  Kreya was here to contact the ancestors whom the Adenians worshiped to seek their approval of his son and to be given a name for the child.  While Kreya gathered enough firewood to keep a small fire burning for three days he was happy for this was his first child and he was proud that it was a rather robust little boy.  Still, there was a small nagging worry in the back of Kreya’s mind.The ancestors did not always approve of a son or the warrior to whom it was born.  Some warriors were not able to contact the ancestors because that man was lacking in some way that the ancestors disapproved.  Sometimes the ancestors did appear to the warrior but did not give a name for the child.  This meant that the child would not survive its first winter.  So Kreya worried about his son, but felt confident that the ancestors would approve of him.
Kreya piled the firewood at the side of the ledge and then laid the two wolf hides one on top of the other near the pile and prepared a place in front of the wolf hides for a fire.  Kreya would sleep on the great bearskin in the back of the tent tonight and then when the sun rose tomorrow Kreya would sit on the wolf hides, build a small fire at the edge of the cliff and sit there for three days.  The pile of firewood was near enough at hand that he would not have to get up to add to his fire.  He would sleep a few hours each night in the cave but not until the moon which would be full tomorrow night, had reached its high point in the sky.  If the ancestors approved, he would have his vision on the third night as the moon was high, then on the fourth day Kreya would be able to eat to revive himself and then start the journey back to the summer camp.  As the sun began to set Kreya ate a bit of dried venison, drank some of his water and lay down for his last good night’s sleep for the next three days.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Few Regrettable Words

A Few Regrettable Words

By John A. Wilson
From time to time, we all do things that we later regret, sometimes for years to come. The things that we regret may not have been done with any intent of malice toward the person that we hurt. Sometimes our most regrettable acts stem from something as simple as a few words spoken without thinking, and once said, our thoughtless words can haunt us for years. For many years now I have borne the burden of a few words spoken thoughtlessly.
In 1973, the war in Vietnam was finally drawing to a close. Richard Nixon had finally taken the necessary steps to end "Johnson’s Dirty Little War." Our troops were pulling out, slowly turning a losing battle over to the people who lived there. I was a young enlisted Marine, as gung-ho as they come. Like many young men I had an overly romanticized view of war, and no sense of my own mortality. I was anxious to get myself into the war before it was over. To me, the war represented a chance for glory. If I could just get over there before it was too late, I could come home a hero, admired by children and sought after by countless beautiful women. I knew nothing about the reality, the true horror of armed conflict. I was about to get a crash course.
The one thing that suddenly brings the reality of mortal combat crashing down on you is to find out that you are about to get sent into the heart of it. I will never forget the feeling I got when I first learned that I was going to Khe Sahn, it felt like my guts had suddenly turned to jelly. For those of you that have forgotten, Khe Sahn is the place where U.S. Marines were held under siege by the Viet Cong for several months. The communists predicted that Khe Sahn would end up just like Dien Bien Phu did back in the 50's, with the base overrun and the garrison wiped out. They forgot to take into account that there is a difference between U.S. Marines and French Paratroopers. The Marines held. Of course this was 1973, the siege had been broken long ago, but that name, Khe Sahn, still sent a shaft of fear through any Marine that heard it. I handled my fear in the finest tradition of Marine enlisted men; I talked loud and tough. An eighteen-year-old Marine Lance Corporal is not supposed to show fear.
Living conditions at Khe Sahn were, to say the least, austere. We lived in bunkers that we called "hootches." A hootch is a hole dug in the ground about 4 feet deep, around the hole, sandbags are stacked about 2 feet high, then a roof is built by laying timbers across the hole and covered with plywood, more sandbags are then stacked on top of the plywood until the timbers can hold no more weight. You never feel comfortable with the number of sandbags on your bunker. If you put enough of them on to make the bunker really shellproof, then the roof will collapse. You don’t want that to happen if you happen to be inside. A narrow trench angling down to the dirt floor provided access into the hootch. The dirt floor was covered with wooden pallets to help keep your feet out of the mud. Some of the hootches had plywood thrown over the palletts to keep the legs of your cot from falling into the cracks between the boards. This was a luxury enjoyed by officers and those crafty enough to steal a few sheets of plywood. There were, of course, no windows in the hootch. The hootches were built to protect you during a mortar attack. A window would have defeated the purpose.
Shower facilities were a little primitive and were placed a minimum of 100 yards from the nearest hootch. They claim that this was for sanitary reasons, but I think it was just another way to mess with the enlisted men. You look pretty ridiculous hot-footing it out to the shower tent wearing a towel around your waist, shower shoes on your feet and a helmet on your head. The point of this is that not everyone took a shower every day. Now, the bunkers being built below ground level did help some toward enduring the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, but with 8 to 10 unwashed bodies living in that unventilated, cramped space, the air could be a little hard to take. Sometimes to escape the fetid air in the hooch I would crawl up on top of it and sleep. The temperature at night was almost bearable, sometimes.
There were only six of us in our little unit. We were Detachment, 3rd FSR, which means that were a small detachment from our parent unit, 3rd Force Service Regiment. 3rd FSR was a maintenance unit stationed on Okinawa. We were mainly engineers and mechanics whose job was to keep the equipment of the 3rd Marine Division operating properly. When we were detached from our parent unit, we were supposed to go to Camp Fuji, Japan. Since we were such a small unit, we were ordered to board ship with an infantry unit that was headed to Camp Fuji for cold weather training. Halfway to Japan some genius decided that we needed a few more grunts in Khe Sahn to help cover the pull-out. I think that they forgot that we were on board. That’s how Det. 3rd FSR got sent to Viet Nam by mistake. We all didn’t make it back, one of us never even made it ashore. But that’s another story.
It’s been a lot of years ago and, sadly, I’ve forgotten some of the names, but I’ll never forget the faces. Sergeant Granger was NCO of the detail, he was a bit odd, but he was all we had. There was PFC Williams, short, ebony skin, built like a tank, a welder by Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), I don’t remember ever seeing him when he wasn’t smiling. Kelly was a big Pennsylvania Irish, a good man to have at your back in a brawl, believe me-I know. Eddie Franks, from Chicago, one of the best friends I had during my years in the Marine Corps. He was the one who didn’t make it ashore alive. Then there was Pvt. Blaire. I never did learn his first name, we just called him Blaire, that seemed to be enough. Blaire was a truck driver, you couldn’t help but like him, but he was a little dense even by Marine standards. He didn’t have a lot to say most of the time, and you had to keep what conversation you had with him pretty simple, but he was a good man. He worked hard at anything you asked him to do. He was convinced that I was some kind of a genius because he overheard me explaining a rather complicated electronics problem to Franks while we were still on board ship, and he took everything I said literally. I guess he thought that I was not capable of being wrong. That fact slipped my mind once; I’ve regretted it ever since.
The Marines tend to use terms that were outdated a century ago, for instance, the "Smoking Lamp." There is no longer a lamp that tells us when it is permissible to smoke or not. The word is simply passed, "The smoking lamp is lit," meaning smoking is permitted or, "The smoking lamp is out," meaning that it is not. Everyone knew that, after dark, "the smoking lamp was out" outside of the bunkers. The glowing end of a lit cigarette can be seen for several hundred yards in the dark. That’s a pretty good target for a V.C. sniper.
One night I was lying on top of my bunker when I became aware of the fact that someone was climbing up there with me. Even in the dark I knew who it was just by the way he moved and the silhouette that he made. It was Pvt. Blaire.
"What’s up, Wilson?" he asked
"Not much," I answered, "just relaxing."
Blaire stretched out on the sandbags beside me. "Been pretty quiet tonight?" he asked.
"Haven’t heard a thing all night."
Blaire was quiet for a while.
"Do you think there’s any of them out there tonight?" he asked. Blaire always seemed to be bothered by the fact that someone might be watching him. Especially since that someone probably had a gun pointed at him.
"You never know," I told him. "Why don’t you stand up and light a smoke to find out."
"Alright." Blaire said as he scrambled to his feet.
I had forgotten that he took everything I said literally. Too late I realized what he was doing. A match flared, illuminating Blaire’s face. I tried to reach up and grab him to pull him down, but I was too late. The unmistakable sound of a 7.62mm round splitting the air cracked above my head. Blaire collapsed on top of me. I pulled him to me. The round had caught him dead center in the chest.
Blaire whispered to me, "Yeah, they’re out there."
Then the light seemed to go out of Blaire’s eyes. I wanted to scream, to shoot back, anything. But there was nothing I could do for Blaire. My thoughtless words had cost Blaire his life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dream, Dreamer, Dream

Dream, Dreamer, Dream
By John A. Wilson

Dream, dreamer, dream
Imagine what you can do
Dream, dreamer, dream
For dreamers there are too few

Dream, dreamer, dream
A new dream every day
Dream, dreamer, dream
Dream bigger than words can say

You cannot do a thing
That first you cannot dream
So to be your very best
Dream, dreamer, dream

The Execution

The Execution
By John A. Wilson

I kneel upon the platform
And lay my head upon the block
Today my life is over
With the crowing of the cock

Just a few more moments left
To make my peace with God
Tonight and nights forevermore
I'll molder `neath the sod

I bare my neck now to the axe
And prepare to be laid low
And for the last time in this life
I hear the rooster crow

The Price of Greatness

The Price of Greatness
By John A. Wilson

Set your sights on that distant star
That shines so brightly in your sky
Work toward it with all your might
For you can never dream too high

But dreaming isn't sufficient
If it's greatness you desire
Greatness takes hard work and sweat
And in your heart a raging fire.

For greatness, a toll it will extract
That must be paid each day
And the higher the greatness you achieve
The greater the price you must pay