Twenty years ago, sculptor R.J. Truman created the “The Cradle of Liberty,” the statue in Shoup Park. As it took shape in a Berkeley foundry, a co-chairman of the statue’s sponsoring veterans group, Bill Henderson, asked me to write a poem about its meaning.
I like to think that the resulting poem – like the statue itself – has stood the test of time. Both have been polished over the years; the poem was once modified at the behest of a retired U.S. Marine Corps major general, who wanted to see a greater Marine Corps presence in its lines.
The 20th anniversary of “The Cradle of Liberty” was celebrated July 4 in Shoup Park. On that day, as I watched the color guard and listened to the singing of our national anthem, I reflected on the poem I wrote 20 years ago. It’s published here for your enjoyment.
‘Who’s This Monument for, Anyway?’
Not for Ensign Pulver,
With his captain’s prize palm tree.
And not for Mr. Roberts,
’Though his plane was lost at sea.
Not for Sergeant Bilko –
“Tens-hut! At ease! Smoke!”
Nor for Corporal Gomer Pyle,
That down-home-neighbors bloke.
Not for Major Houlihan,
Or her bumbling Major Frank.
Nor for Captain Hawkeye Pierce,
Who made a joke of rank.
Not for that well-traveled Kilroy,
Always peeping over walls.
Nor for the Skipper of the Caine,
With his stainless, clicking balls.
Not for Mauldin’s Sad Sack Willy,
Up to here in mud and muck.
Nor, even now, for Colonel Canyon,
Who, at last, ran out of luck.
Not for any made-up souls,
No matter how engaging.
When we have real heroes,
Born of battles’ raging.
So, where did war begin for you?
On the news, or in a book?
Or were you one of those folks
Got a close-up, personal look?
Where were you, that Sunday
Sky still gray and water pearly –
A lookout muttering to himself,
“God, some flyboys got up
Did you volunteer to fight
Then you caught one in the
(“Sorry, nurse, but I’m fresh out
Of Arid – Extra Dry!”)
Were Zeros on the far horizon
Nothing but a radar blip?
Next thing you knew the captain
“Now hear this: abandon ship!”
Did you wear a nurse’s mask
Turning horror into heaven,
In a real-life, real-time version
Of the 4-0-7-7?
Were you at a Bob Hope show,
Smack in the middle of your tour,
And wonder-of-wonders, found
Just that close to Miss Lamour?
After some lone kamikaze
Taught you how to pray,
Did you, like Patton, read your
Every single day?
Do you dream of Montezuma,
And the shores of Tripoli?
Then you must hope it will one
“The few – the proud – and me!”
Did you tell your grandson
How you settled every score?
Or did you tell the kids at school
How Grandad won the war?
Are you that gal who ferried
’38s across the foam?
Or did you – by chance – become
Whose someone is never coming
Or is your favorite color often
Red – and white – and blue?
Well, then, just like Pappy
This monument – is for you.
Bob Simon is a Los Altos resident.