A Long Time Ago
©Dennis Johnson
A long time ago,
In a land far away,
Is how many stories go
As does this one today.

So; a long time ago,
In a land far away,
There was a young boy
Trying to find his way.

He wasn't accepted because of his cloths
(there might have been other reasons, I suppose).
He spent much of his time all by himself
Surrounded by books, on shelf after shelf.

The library was free and he'd learned of it's lore.
Outside he played "Cops & Robbers", and "Cowboys" and "War".
He watched "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver"
In his search for truth he was an over-achiever!

But one truth he found which was harder than most
Was that doing his best would just bring on a host
Of cursing and beatings and hits from the belt.
Can you imagine the way that he felt?

He wanted to learn how to be a good man.
To be unlike his father; his master plan.
So he searched for his heroes from hither and yon.
Searching for something that he could become.

He remembers the dream that came night after night
Of fighting this pirate who knew not wrong from right.
And it wouldn't have really been such a bother,
But night after night he kept stabbing his father.

Now that was really one heck of a dream!
He'd wake up at night just wanting to scream!
For he knew what he'd dreamed was not "true" or "right"
Though it certainly would have corrected his plight.

He stayed from his home more often than often
Afraid of who might wind up in a coffin.
He learned that by staying away from the house
He could be what he wanted, instead of that louse.

So he joined all the clubs as quick as he could
To prove to himself that he wasn't "No good...".
Boy Scouts, 4H, and Civil Air Patrol
Taught him great lessons and taught him control.

He found a good man who helped straiten him out,
And of this one thing there can be no doubt;
That he was a mentor and he was a friend
And he would stick by him until his life's end.

There was but one thing that drew away Tom,
A small country you've heard of, it's called Vietnam.
Duty, honor, country; it called Tom away.
And he never saw Tom after that day.

He graduated from high school.
The "police action" persisted.
And so like a fool
He went down and enlisted!

His father was there when he went off to serve
And still from his meanness he did not swerve.
As he went off to war, dad offered this dig,
"If you make it through basics,  you'll wind up in the brig".

You'd think that by then he'd have given up slander.
Imagine his ire when his son was commander.
He'd been put in charge of all the inductees
And ordered to get them to base, if you please.

From that day on he never held back.
He did his best and he stayed on track.
He learned all the rules and his efforts were noted
He passed all the tests and was quickly promoted.

From the time he enlisted 'til he made E4
Was 14 weeks; nothing less, nothing more.
The next stripe came along very fast
Imagine comparing here and now with the past!

Then officers asked for some volunteers
And he'd have to say, "Music to my ears"!
He never found Tom but he did find Tommy
And went off to fight those terrible "Commies".

"They were the best of times".
"They were the worst of times".
"They were times to try men's souls".
The country fought on without any goals.

He fought to survive with all his might.
And we fought for each other only to find
A time that would lead him to someday write
"Nobody Gets Left Behind".

So much has happened since that time long ago.
So many things you already know.
America-then seems so far, far away.
From the time when he was a child at play.

His father lived in a town not too distant
Two promises remained, ever persistent.
The boy within had a promise: finally one day
To visit his father and dance on his grave.

The man has his promise to brothers to keep
To bring them all home: no cost is too steep.
For they gave us their best and they gave us their all.
And they deserve more than their name on a wall.

The boy was the good guy; the cop not the robber.
The man has been soldier and fighter, and warrior.
He's come to find peace with his place in the world
Yet still sheds a tear when the flag is unfurled.

And he knows what price glory
For he's lived out this story.
And he knows what he means and also the stakes
When he says,
    "Operation Just Cause ...for as long as it takes".


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