This is one of my favourite poems that I have completed.
We had very good friends over for dinner and while discussing this poem, which I had added to the second edition of the book, our Eldest, Kris, mentioned that her friend read the copy of the book and found that I had copied Mary Elizabeth Frye, the originator/creator of that awesome poem, "Do not stand at my grave and weep". I had actually placed her poem into my book, rather than insert the poem I wrote, based Mary's inspiring poem.
I was horrified that I had done that. To add to the issue, I had also deleted the poem I had wrote as my version of her poem. I was deep into my cannabis and alcohol elixirs at that time, so it is no surprise that I screwed up. Three straight hours later, I had completed my new version of Mary’s wonderful poem. This is my Veteran’s poem.
The Shell Left Behind
Do not stand at my grave and cry
It was not there that I fell and died
At the call of my Nation with flight in feet
Not truly knowing the enemy I’d meet
Not enough years had passed since birth
But proud and eager to prove my worth
Off to defend values perhaps not of my own
But my Nation called, that is all I had known
The battle raged high, the noise, the smoke
The chaos of killing providing a cloak
Knowing the result of all I was giving
I thought of my family and friends as I departed the living
I am the twinkle in my mother’s eye
I am the teardrops when she cry’s
I am that tiny smile my father shows
I am that awkward silence he knows
I am the one who left the stable
I am the missing plate at the table
I am the breeze that closes the door
I am the money you found on the floor
I am the smell of my favourite pie
I am the cardinal in the sky
I am the energy that helps you thrive
I am a wonderful memory kept alive
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, that is not where I died
I do not remain at any cemeteries
I remain forever within your memories
Our energies remain forever entwined
My spirit remains, the shell left behind.
I wrote this 01 December 2021 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I wrote this next one, having isolated myself from most people. I wrote this thinking at the time that I had my wife, then I had my best friend/s. I was wrong. My wife is my best friend. Others are, one of my best friends. You are my Best Friend.
We have known each other for just over 20 years,
We Started out strong,
Had some good times while golfing,
We seemed to be bonding,
Why, I do not know, we just did.
Then you moved, our communications broke down,
Then you moved back and I moved away,
Then out of the blue I receive a gift from you,
An “Ed Hardy” T-Shirt,
Proud friendship feelings, that I unfortunately hid.
There were times when we lived nearby,
But did not seem to need to connect,
We drifted in and out of each other’s lives,
But somehow managed to find our way back to each other when needed,
As if our friendship was meant to be.
I have never been good with expressing my feelings,
As a soldier, It was a sign of weakness,
That Machismo mentality shaped my being,
My live experiences have ensured a hard exterior,
It is what it is, that is just me.
False friends have come and gone,
Some just took longer than others,
Yet we remained on the fringes of connection,
Drifting in and out, yet if a problem arose,
On you I knew I could always Depend.
We began to make opportunities to get together,
To share a glass of port with a smooth hookah,
I genuinely enjoy our time together,
And I have come to appreciate the fact,
That you are my best friend.
10 March 2021
This is a poem I will come to both regret and be thankful that I wrote. Danuta (Dee) was a shining, caring women, whom both my wife, Dorothy, and I came to be very fond of. When they moved into the home of the previous owners, whom we had known for some time, we were curious. Well, Dee and Luigi became very good friends very quickly.
We thought the battle was one. What a short victory that turned out to be. I regret writing this poem, because it was a short-lived victory. The cancer came back and within a year, Dee would be gone.
Ode to Dee
We are new neighbours,
New friends actually,
Now live across the street,
Their names are Lui and Dee.
Haven’t been here very long,
Just a couple of years,
But along with their happiness,
They have also had tears.
For in addition to COVID,
It’s ending still blurred,
Dee has had to battle,
That horrible “C” word.
We can’t forget Lui,
It’s been tough on him too,
But they have been strong,
They have both come through.
To win a battle against cancer,
Is an incredible feat,
But to do it during COVID,
Shows she accepts no defeat.
This poem celebrates two strong people,
And our friendship that has come to be,
We are so glad you won that battle,
And this is my “Ode to Dee”.
My previous post ended with me having just been informed that I had been accepted into the Commissioning From the Ranks (CFR) Program, as an Intelligence Officer.
That was a very good day. I was called by my boss on my birthday, while I was off, taking my young family to the Vancouver Aquarium. Rear-Admiral Ronald Buck, then Commander of the Canadian West Coast Fleet, presented my Officer Cadet Epaulette. But just before he did so, he looked at my wife and said "Are you OK with this happening, because if you are not ready for what he is about to do and how that may change your life, you say so right here and now, and I will put a stop to this. I'm serious. I could not believe what was happening, as I am staring at my wife. Thankfully, she indicated that she was fine with it, because this is something I wanted. She has been an absolute rock of support to me over these past 30 years. More than half of my life has been spent with this wonderful woman. Now, after spending 17 years as a Non-Commissioned Member (NCM) and having reached the rank of Sergeant in two Trades (Artillery & Communicator Research); 3 in fact, as the Air Defence Artillery and the Field Artillery are now two separate trades. I use this number loosely because, I turned down my promotion to Sergeant in the Artillery, to get out of the Military in 1985. Such a dumb decision. But here I was being Commissioned as an Intelligence Officer, Army/Land Force Element. It was a little quick and mind boggling.
Here is a journey back:
I had just completed my Jump/Parachute Qualification, and the Advanced Combat Intelligence Coarse. Back at the Regiment, I had said publicly, that I would love to work within the Intelligence Branch/Trade. But I knew I was being posted to the Airborne and had not submitted any paperwork to change trades. I had just said it was an interesting Branch. So, without so much as talking to me, my new Troop Commander labelled me as wanting to leave the Artillery. He had my posting to the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, (2 RCHA), the Airborne element with the Canadian Artillery, cancelled; under the grounds that the Artillery was likely to loose MBdr Hardy to remuster (Voluntarily change of Trades within the Military) to the Intelligence Branch. Unfortunately, He and I did not get along and he saw an opportunity to get back at me for making him look bad in front of the Battery Commander. While conducting Detachment deployment evaluations during our pre-RV85 Exercise training. The Battery Commander assessed my deployment; and after getting into my trench to have a look at the field of view, asked me if I had an unobstructed view of my assigned Arcs of Fire. I had to answer no, Sir. Why is that MBdr. You have Detachment Commander Authority to move your assigned firing position, by 250 feet, to ensure complete line of site. Or contact the Troop Commander, who can assign a new location, based on your on-site recommendations. I answered that our Troop Commander has taken that Authority away and I was not permitted to move my assigned position.
The Battery Commander, wrote down a new position and ordered me to change site locations in 30 minutes. That would give me time to pack and relocate to the new position, and time for the Battery Commander to get into a position to watch my deployment.
With the completion of the Battery deployment competition, I had won the best deployment in the Battery. The Battery was comprised of three Troops of 5 Detachments and a Command Post in each Troop. How much of that was me doing a good job, or the Battery Commander wanting to slap his new Troop Commander, not sure. I was the Senior Detachment Commander within my Troop and knew my job. I was not happy that I was not leaving the Battery to go the 2nd Regiment. So, not wanting to stay and work for the Troop Commander, I applied to release from the Military.
Just prior to releasing, I was assigned the Avalanche Control Gun Detachment 2ic position. After spending 6 weeks in Rogers Pass, British Columbia, conducting Avalanche Control duties with a Towed 105mm Howitzer, we joined our Battery; U Battery, 3rd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (3 RCHA), in Canadian Forces Detachment Dundurn, Saskatchewan. Conducting warm up exercises, prior to the commencement of Division Level Exercise, Rendezvous 1985 (RV-85) in Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Wainwright, Alberta. The Battery Commander of U Bty, called me into his Office (in a tent) and showed me my promotion message to Sergeant. All I had to do was retract my release application. That was a shoulda/coulda/woulda situation.
At the time, I was uniquely qualified within the Air Defence Battery; I was the only Master Bombardier (MBdr), within the Air Defence Battery to be qualified as a Blowpipe Air Defence Missile Detachment Commander, a 40mm Boffin Airfield Air Defence Gun Detachment Commander, a 105mm C1A1 Towed Howitzer Detachment Commander as well as
a 155mm M109A2 Self-Propelled (SP) Howitzer Detachment Commander.
While most chose leave/vacation, I chose courses and opportunities. Rather than sit around and have troops clean things, I jumped at the chance to take any course, even if it was not within the Air Defence Battery. In which I was trained to operate and currently assigned.
Such a grown-up response to this situation.
This response was also happening at the same time my personal life was taking new turns. A young woman I had dated in Grade 7, came back into my life at a time when things were stressful for me. I thought I was getting out of the Army to become a Heavy Machine Mechanic. I would begin the apprenticeship at my girlfriends, fathers’ business. The relationship did not even get to the stage of me starting work.
She had already made her mind up and had already informed her father that I would not be working there. Had she said something earlier, I would not have released. So, gone was the girl friend, my promised job, as well as the 4 1/2 years of military service, and a promotion to Sergeant.
No, that wasn't bad enough, the Military had not released my release pay because of some clerical error. So, gone too was the money intended to get me thru the first 6 months of being out of the Military. No money meant no money for rent and no bank payment for my Camaro.
Yes, I lost my apartment, and yes they repossessed my car.
My life had hit a very low point. Upon re-applying to the Canadian Forces, I was informed that the Doctor would not sign my fitness certification because I had an Ulcer noted on my release medical records. The Doctor would not sign without 2 years of healing.
I struggled, being out. It was very humbling to need to move back in with my Mother. Thankfully, things did improve, and I began to work as a Brick Layer's Apprentice in London Ontario. I also realized that the military was where I needed to be.
The recruiting centre in London, Ontario, supported my getting back in. So, as soon as the Medical Officer responsible for signing the medically fit for service, was posted (sent) to another location, the recruiting centre sent my file to the replacement Doctor, who had no issues with my having had only 12 months of healing.
Additionally, and thankfully, the military allowed me back in at the rank of Master Bombardier. They had decided that since I had the promotion message to Sergeant still within my records, my one rank loss would be from Sergeant to Master Bombardier. I was able to get back into the Artillery, close to where I was at the time of my release.
After 1.5 years of being out, I was back in the Artillery, and back to the Guns. I was posted to the Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Gagetown New Brunswick, as the Maintenance NCO. I was responsible for keeping the towed and tracked guns operational for all of the courses conducted during the schooling year.
On my third week of being back in the Artillery, January 1987, while walking the hall of the CTC Headquarters, I had walked past the open door of the School Sergeant Major. Who happened to be the former Battery Sergeant Major for the Air Defence Battery when we deployed to Cyprus. After passing by his office, I hear in a load forceful voice, Hardy. My immediate reaction is to assume the position of Attention, and yell out, Sergeant Major (SM). The Combat Training Centre (CTC) Sergeant Major was in fact, the Sergeant Major for U Bty, 3 RCHA, back in 1982, when we deployed to Cyprus.
Starting back with the Field Guns wasn't necessarily a shock to me, as the Air Defence was considered the ugly stepson of the real Artillery, and as for the Guns, and I was a qualified gun Detachment Commander, and wasn't necessarily fully onboard with being sent to the Air Defence, as opposed to one of the 155mm M109 Batteries.
The CTC Sergeant Major asked me what I was doing there. I explained my release and re-enlistment. Which, led to my current posting. The SM told me to come back next week to see him. The following week, I was informed by the CTC SM that I was being posted back to U Bty, 3 RCHA as a Blowpipe Air Defence Missile Detachment Commander. Again, not consulted. I might have stayed with Guns. But the opportunity to shape the future of Canadian Army Air Defence, was also calling.
So, back to U Bty, 3 RCHA, just in time for it to disband and move the entire Canadian Army Air Defence capability to CFB Chatham and CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick, respectfully. I on the other hand, suffered an anaphylactic attack, after ingesting to much vehicle exhaust. I presented myself to the Base Hospital, at 0300hrs, after dropping a friends wife off at the Train Station in Brandon, Manitoba. On the way back, instead of taking the construction diversion route, I decided that we would just plow on thru over the new road installation. I was very wrong. The layer of dirt I went on had not be compacted as of yet, and I drove on a sinking road. I spent the next 45 minutes pushing my vehicle off the new road and back onto solid ground.
I dropped my friend off at his Married Quarters and drove to the Base Hospital. Where, I rang the entrance buzzer and was then greeted by the on-call medic. With me gasping to breathe with a swollen face, I was immediately administered life-saving medical attention. I had gone into anaphylactic shock. So began my road to being medically reassigned from the Artillery to the Communicator Research Branch. I met and married my wife at CFB Shilo, Manitoba, just as I was being medically reassigned to the Communicator Research Branch.
I now fast forward back to my Commissioning. Being selected for the CFR program meant I needed to conduct some training. The Basic Officer training was done at CFB Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec. The Military had not opened the CFR program the previous 5 years, so the Saint Jean staff did not have experience training CFR's. Basic Officer Training was designed to teach Officer Candidates the basics of military life, along with low level (Junior Leader) personnel management, using a Small Party Tasking training format. The minimum rank for the CFR program was Sgt, but there were also several Warrant Officers within our CFR group. Warrant Officers were used as the Training Staff, with a Captain as the Course Officer. In total, there were 31 on our Course. 25 CFR's, 3 x new Medical Officers, 2 x new Dental Officers (usually, these Officers did not go to the Royal Military College (RMC), they went to civilian Universities to complete their respective career training, then were sent to Basic Officer Training. They usually already hold the Rank of Captain, or Major. The last spot was filled by a lone Basic Officer Candidate. They put him in our training to justify treating all of us like new recruits. In stead of treating the CFR's with the respect their previous experience deserved and focusing on mid-to-senior level management within the military.
Following the graduation ceremony, the School Commandant (Lieutenant-Colonel, (LCol)) made the mistake of having the course surround him and then opened the floor to our remarks. And he received many. Most Officer Cadets graduate as Second Lieutenant's (2Lt). As CFR's, previous Sergeants (Sgt) graduated as Lieutenant's (Lt), previous Warrant Officers (WO) graduated as Captains (Capt).
I returned home, in Victoria/Langford, to spend Christmas 1998 with my family. In January 1999, I was sent to CFB Borden, Ontario, to complete my Intelligence Officer Training.
This has been long. So, I will end it here. I will continue next time with the start of my Military Intelligence Officer Training.
As noted before, I did not place my name and date of completion with my earlier poems. However, all of the poems from my book are copyright protected. E.J.R. Hardy.