From Gifford to Hickman

Pvt. Jonathan Lee Gifford was the first U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.  He was killed just two days into the war on March 23, 2003.  Spc. David Emanual Hickman was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on November 14, 2011.  The Washington Post on December 17, 2011, said Hickman “may have been the last” U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.  After reading an article about Gifford and Hickman my sister, Gloria, was inspired to write the following poem “From Gifford to Hickman.”

 

From Gifford to Hickman
by Gloria J. Bernhardt
 
From Gifford to Hickman…and all those in between,
You fought bravely amid chaos and dangers unforeseen.
Twenty-one guns have sounded, the riderless horse walks on.
Fond memories are remaining. A nation’s child is gone.
 
Sons and daughters; fathers, mothers — broken hearts intertwined.
Hugs and kisses; their successes – major milestones left behind.
Your selfless gift — a life laid down; for fellow soldier, family, land.
Duty called — call was answered — no greater love hath man.
 
“I’m getting taller. I lost a tooth. I got 100 on my test!
Miss your pancakes and your tickles, goodnight kisses were the best.
Who will answer all my questions now? I’ve important stuff to learn!
You said you had a big surprise on the day that you’d return.”
 
“I talk to you at bedtime — after lights go out at night.
I told Jesus that I miss you…sure wish you could hug me tight.
When Grandpa says I look like you, Grandma starts to cry.
I’m mad that you’re not coming home…I need to say goodbye!”
 
From Gifford, to Hickman, through every soldier who has served,
Liberty’s fruits are savored and freedom is preserved.
We live freely due to soldiers, willing to support and defend
Our Constitution, our country — against enemies ‘til the end.
 
Sons and daughters; fathers, mothers — broken hearts intertwined.
Hugs and kisses; their successes – major milestones left behind.
Your selfless gift — a life laid down; for fellow soldier, family, land.
Duty called — call was answered — no greater love hath man.
 
“I had a dream the night before…you smiled and walked on by.
When I awoke, I thought it odd…it seemed like a ‘good-bye’.
I couldn’t put my finger on the dark cloud that remained,
When the phone began to ring…I knew my life had changed.”
 
“I questioned God, ‘Why MY child? Why do I have to lose?’
I imagined His response would be ‘If not your child, then whose?’
Your bright life flashed too briefly… seems He only takes the best.
I’m thankful for the time I had. For that I’m truly blessed.”
 
From Gifford to Hickman and every warrior who has passed,
The price you’ve paid bought freedom, but will we make it last?
Your last breath drawn for citizens in this country and abroad
Are we worthy of such gifts is known only but to God.
 
Sons and daughters; fathers, mothers — broken hearts intertwined.
Hugs and kisses; their successes – major milestones left behind.
Your selfless gift — a life laid down; for fellow soldier, family, land.
Duty called — call was answered — no greater love hath man.
 
“My world stopped spinning…I couldn’t breathe! Lord, how can I go on?
My days are all one midnight…but they say it’s darkest ‘fore the dawn.
I can hear you say, ‘I’m proud of you! I know that this is hard.’
What do I do without you here? What dreams do I discard?”
 
“I miss your laugh. I miss your smell. I even miss our fights.
No more messes. No embraces. It’s more ‘real’ late at night.
I saw you in a crowd today; but you vanished in the throng.
Wishful thinking changes nothing! I know my “rock” is gone.”
 
FOR Gifford, FOR Hickman…FOR all the fallen in between,
You’ve trudged through shadowed valley and joined heroes’ ranks unseen.
Upon freedom’s altar, we sacrificed our daughters and our sons.
Empty boots stand at attention. The flag is folded. Your mission’s done.
 
© 2012 Gloria J. Bernhardt. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted by permission.

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