This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story behind a memorial. Is it a structure, plaque, or something else? What does it seek to remind those who view it? Go where the prompt leads!
Charli’s prompt was in honour of Memorial Day commemorated in the United States on 30th May.
In Australia, we have two main days for remembrance — ANZAC Day on 25th April (which we share with New Zealand), and Remembrance Day on 11th November (which we share with many other countries).
Every evening, The Ode is recited at many RSL (Returned and Services League) Clubs around Australia. The Ode is the fourth stanza of the poem “For The Fallen” by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943).
At times such as these, I always think of my family members, especially my father, who fought in the Second World War. This is my response. I hope you like it. It is a #99wordstory but it is truth (as I know it), not #flashfiction.
As a child, he lived at Yuleba, a tiny town in south-western Queensland. His father was a boundary rider on the fence bordering New South Wales, keeping rabbits out of Queensland. A peaceful if difficult life. Aged 20, he enlisted. His overseas service included the battle at Milne Bay, a turning point of the war. Upon their return, servicemen were told to forget. Memories and nightmares disagreed, but it was years before he could talk, let alone write, about his experiences. After his death, his words were engraved on a memorial in his home town, never to be forgotten.
These are the words on the memorial, a brief extract from a longer poem Ode to the Old Digger by RJ (John) Irwin.
You’ve seen him marching with his mates all in sombre mood;
For they march to pay homage, and remember fallen mates
But, they also remember the horrors of their fates
and they pray to God their sons will never have to face
a similar situation for there’s never any winners only death.
Aah! But did you see him in his glory, as he stood among the dead
and he wondered why it had to be;
…So look upon him gently for he is not to blame
For he only fought that all peoples may be free.
So let us honour him, and give him his just due
For he is only man, just like me and you;
But he was called upon to make a stand
against an inhuman ideology, too horrible for minds to grasp
and all he asks for now, is a chance to live in peace.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.
Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Well’s Gone Dry, including mine, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.