As a child, I remember my dad’s whole extended family gathering for a picnic at the city park in Albia, Iowa on Decoration Day. I didn’t know then that the reason we met in this town on this day was because that was the only day in the entire calendar when my grandparents could be close to all their children at the same time—including their youngest son, Gary Lee Abrahamson, who died in Vietnam at the age of nineteen. It had to be this town because just a few short miles from the park where we gathered to eat potato salad and all the trimmings lay the cemetery where Uncle Gary was buried. After lunch, the adults and older children would visit the cemetery to decorate the grave of this beloved son who had died in the service of his country.
Grandpa once told me that the day he delivered his son to the airport for the first stage of his deployment to Vietnam was the hardest day of his entire life. Somehow Grandpa sensed that this was the last time he would see this short, laughing boy—his youngest child—alive. And somehow all the picnics that followed on Decoration Day after Uncle Gary died, filled as they were with the laughter of children playing, was my grandparents’ way of remembering the fallen and now silent child who would never live to grow old. This post is in honor of those parents and their lively, laughing boy and all the countless other parents who have lost a child in combat.
The Weary Young Soldier©2014
For Uncle Gary L. Abrahamson, Fallen in Vietnam
Karen K. Abrahamson
A young, tattered boy in field soldier’s clothes leans,
with gasping breath, upon the pole which bears his flag.
Weary, battle-fatigued, he stands with head bowed, dreaming.
Dreaming of home as the bullets fly. Dreaming of home while the cannons roar.
The battle field dims and the cries of the dying men fade.
In the distance, those old familiar places settle quietly upon the
There is the old, weathered barn with the rope dangling enticingly from the mow.
Oh, what fun it would be to grasp the rope and hurl oneself into the great, blue sky.
He sighs. But no, there are chores to tend to first. The cows must be milked, the fence needs mending.
About the dreaming boy, the battle rages,
but the flag pole is buried deep and the boy sleeps on.
He hears the laughter of boyhood friends.
Gathered together on the front porch are those he loves best—
Mother, Father, Brother, Sister.
He reaches out to hold them. He longs for their touch.
But as he awakens, he finds that the loved one he clutches is
the flag pole.
And, the one that caresses his shoulder is the Red, White, and Blue.
He straightens his shoulders and picks up his pack.
Then clutching the flag, he lofts it on high.