Last updated: June 06. 2014 10:30PM - 457 Views

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Most of the soldiers who survived D-Day on June 6, 1944, when the Allied Forces invaded the beaches of Normandy have passed on. Of those remaining, some are in nursing homes, their once strong bodies now failing them.

This past semester my students in my modern American literature classes at Edison State Community College learned that they, too, are authors, are a part of American literature, as they wrote original poetry and short stories.

One of those students, Ashley Garland, spent three years working in an area nursing home and came to know the stories of her patients. She saw injustices as she felt that they had been reduced to numbers, their height and weight, and diseases. She determined that she would give voice to some of these residents. She would let others know that although their bodies were failing, their minds were active and they still deserve to be treated with respect.

One of the dramatic monologues she wrote was of a resident who was a paratrooper in the invasion of Normandy, and today I want to share his story as told by Garland:

Warner, John 26-1*

Watch out, here comes ‘ole grumpy John

These old ears can hear you say

But Junior, you just shut your trap

You’ve no idea why I’m this way

I wasn’t yet your age

When I flew over the sea

With eighteen of my brothers-in-arms

Dropping from the sky to Hell’s beach at Normandy

You’ve not tasted fear until you’ve been on that dissent

‘Chute shot to rags, bullets racing toward your face

Comrades struck and screaming

Like angels falling from grace

They say the war is over

Though it never really ends

Each night I close my eyes

And still hear the screaming agony of friends

I see my men lying broken and bloody

Some so bad they beg to die

I still have shrapnel in my leg

From Harper stepping on that mine

So don’t tell me it’s long done and over

Don’t ask me to let it go

I’ve seen all sorts of horror

The likes of which you’ll never know

All the Hell I’ve been through

All the life I’ve led

Has come down to this:

T.V, walker, chair, and bed

Don’t look at me so smugly

One day you’ll be like me

Putting on your call light

Waiting for help just to pee

These nurses weren’t even born

When I went off to fight

Having to rely on them to wipe my ass

To feed and dress me, well it’s no damn delight

I took care of myself just fine

Up until that damned stroke

In that terrifying moment

My life went up in smoke

And that’s why I’m stuck in here

In treeless Shady Oaks*

Ashley Garland

April 2014

* fictitious names

Garland graduated with an Associate of Arts degree at Edison last month and will be a junior at Indiana University in the fall where she will major in English and Spanish.

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