by Edgar A. Guest
And he whistled "Yankee Doodle," as he stood beside his gun;
There was laughter in his make-up, there was manhood in his face,
And he knew the best traditions and the courage of his race;
Now there's not a heart among us but should swell with loyal pride
When he thinks of Kelly Ingram and the splendid way he died.
On the swift Destroyer Cassin he was merely gunner's mate
But up there to-day, I fancy, he is standing with the great.
On that grim day last October his position on the craft
Was that portion of the vessel which the sailors christen aft;
There were deep sea bombs beside him to be dropped upon the Hun
Who makes women folks his victims and then gloats o'er what he's done.
From the lookout came a warning; came the cry all sailors fear,
A torpedo was approaching, and the vessel's doom was near;
Ingram saw the steak of danger, but he saw a little more,
A greater menace faced them than that missle had in store;
If those deep sea bombs beside him were not thrown beneath the wave,
Every man aboard the Cassin soon would find a watery grave.
It was death for him to linger, but he figured if he ran
And quit his post of duty, 'twould be death for every man;
So he stood at his position, threw those depth bombs overboard,
And when that torpedo struck him, he went forth to meet his Lord.
Oh, I don't know how to say it, but these whole United States
Should remember Kelly Ingram—he who died to save his mates.
Some day the smiles of joy shall start and you shall cease repining.
Beyond the dim and distant line the days of peace are waiting,
When you shall have your soldier fine, and men shall turn from hating.
Oh, mother, bear the pain a-while, as long ago you bore it;
You suffered then to win his smile, and you were happier for it;
And now you suffer once again, and bear your weight of sorrow;
Yet you shall thrill with gladness when he wins the glad to-morrow.
Oh, mother, when the cannons roar and all the brave are fighting,
Remember that the son you bore the wrongs of earth are righting;
Remember through the hours of pain that he with all his brothers
Is battling there to win again a happy world for mothers.
Along some winding Flanders road,
No extra touch of grief or care
He'll add unto her heavy load.
But he will kindly take her arm
And tender as her son will be;
He'll lead her from the path of harm
Because of me.
Be she the mother of his foe,
He will not speak to her in hate;
My boy will never stoop so low
As motherhood to desecrate.
But she shall know what once I knew—
Eyes that are glorious to see,
The light of manhood shining through—
Because of me.
He will salute her as they meet,
And stand before her bare of head;
If she be hungry, she may eat
His last remaining bit of bread.
She'll find those splendid arms and strong
Quick to assist her, tenderly,
And they will guard her from all wrong
Because of me.
I miss his thoughtful, loving care;
I miss his smile these dreary days;
But should he meet a mother there,
Helpless and lost in war's grim maze,
She need not fear to take his arm,
As though she'd reared him at her knee;
My son will shield her from all harm
Because of me.
I cannot guess the task that waits for him across the sea,
But I have known him through the years, and when there's work to do,
I know he'll meet his duty well, I'll swear that he'll be true.
I sometimes fear that he may die, but never that he'll shirk;
If death shall want him death must go and take him at his work:
This splendid sacrifice he makes is filled with terrors grim,
And I have many thoughts of fear, but not one fear of him.
The foe may rob my life of joy, the foe may take my all,
And desolate my days shall be if he shall have to fall.
But this I know, whate'er may be the grief that I must face,
Upon his record there will be no blemish of disgrace.
His days have all been splendid days, there lies no broken trust.
Along the pathway of his youth to molder in the dust;
Honor and truth have marked his ways, in him I can be glad;
He is as fine and true a son as ever a father had.
(Who had "Return if Possible" Orders.)
And talked of the struggle that's taking men's lives in these terrible days o'er the seas,
"But I've been through the thick of the thing and I know when a battle's begun,
It isn't the phone you depend on for help. It's the legs of a boy who can run.
"It isn't because of the phone that I'm here. To-day you are talking to me
Because of the grit and the pluck of a boy. His title was Runner McGee.
We were up to our dead line an' fighting alone; some plan had miscarried I guess,
And the help we were promised had failed to arrive. We were showing all signs of distress.
"Our curtain of fire was ahead of us still, an' theirs was behind us an' thick,
An' there wasn't a thing we could do for ourselves—the few of us left had to stick.
You haven't much chance to get central an' talk on the phone to the music of guns;
Gettn' word to the chief is a matter right then that is up to the fellow who runs.
"I'd sent four of 'em back with the R. I. P. sign, which means to return if you can,
But none of 'em got through the curtain of fire; my hurry call died with the man.
Then Runner McGee said he'd try to get through.
I hated to order the kid
On his mission of death; thought he'd never get by, but somehow or other he did.
"Yes, he's dead. Died an hour after bringing us word that the chief was aware of our plight,
An' for us to hang on to the ditch that we held; the reserves would relieve us at night.
Then we stuck to our trench an' we stuck to our guns; you know how you'll fight when you know
That new strength is coming to fill up the gaps.
There's heart in the force of your blow.
"It wasn't till later I got all the facts. They wanted McGee to remain.
They begged him to stay. He had cheated death once an' was foolish to try it again.
'R. I. P. are my orders,' he answered them all, 'an' back to the boys I must go;
Four of us died comin' out with the news. It will help them to know that you know.'"
A little quick to see the faults and petty flaws that mar
The girl their son is fond of and may choose to make his wife,
A little overjealous of the one who'd share his life;
But the girl he left behind him when he bravely marched away
Has blossomed into beauty that we see and need to-day.
She was with us at the depot, and we turned our backs a-while,
And her eyes were sad and misty, though she tried her best to smile.
Then she put her arm round mother, and it seemed to me as though
They just grew to love each other, for they shared a common woe.
Now she often comes to see us, and it seems to me we find
A heap of solid comfort in the girl he left behind.
"She's so sensible and gentle," mother said last night to me,
"The kind of girl I've often wished and prayed his wife would be.
And I like to have her near us, for she understands my sighs
And I see my brave boy smiling when I look into her eyes."
Now the presence of his sweetheart seems to fill our home with joy.
She's no longer young and flighty—she's the girl who loves our boy.
At any humble post I may;
To honor and respect her Flag,
To live the traits of which I brag;
To be American in deed
As well as in my printed creed.
To stand for truth and honest toil,
To till my little patch of soil
And keep in mind the debt I owe
To them who died that I might know
My country, prosperous and free,
And passed this heritage to me.
I must always in trouble's hour
Be guided by the men in power;
For God and country I must live
My best for God and country give;
No act of mine that men may scan
Must shame the name American.
To do my best and play my part,
American in mind and heart;
To serve the flag and bravely stand
To guard the glory of my land;
To be American in deed,
God grant me strength to keep this creed.
© 1999, Lynn Waterman