A poem by Myron (Mike) Swack. Introduction by b. traven.
Mike and I were raised in a Jewish orphan home. Mike was a year younger than I. I volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps cadet program and was accepted in early 1943. Mike volunteered for the army shortly after me but he was only 17 years old.
While I was still in training in mid-1944 Mike was being sent into Europe as an infantry replacement just before the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944). He was about 18 years old then. His squad was surrounded in their foxholes in that ferocious winter battle. Most of them were murdered when they got out of their foxholes and tried to surrender to the Germans, but Mike survived.
His “dog tags” told the Germans that he was a Jew and they sent him to Berga concentration camp (a slave labor camp associated with Buchenwald) rather than a POW camp as mandated by the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of POWs. In the camp he was tortured and only escaped as the Allied armies swept into Germany.
Just before his death a few years ago, Mike wrote this poem to help those who have never experienced war to recognize its horrifying nature. I miss Mike and I miss those of my generation who understood the horrors of war and who, like Mike, “just wanted to go home.”
Fast forward to today. Why are so many Americans ready to send other people’s children into the uncivilized cauldron of war? Why do we have “boots on the ground” in more than 140 countries in the world? If they are there to “protect” us it means that the world is filled with people who don’t like us. Maybe if we weren’t there we could build schools and repair bridges here at home, and those people overseas would turn their resentment of us into the respect we had around the world following World War II. Mike and I, and those few still living from that devastation felt proud of our sacrifice. We served as citizen-soldiers. We were not heroes and virtually all of us, like Mike, just wanted to go home. Bring back our honor as a peace-loving nation, not a nation in perpetual war feared by all and respected by fewer and fewer. b. traven
By Myron Swack, Ph.D.
106th Division, Bulge/Berga Survivor
I am sad on every Veteran’s Day.
I remember the horror of war,
I remember being on the front line.
It was the coldest winter in the Ardennes
Mountains in 1944-45.
I remember the high casualty rate.
War is an ugly, ugly scene.
It begins ugly and it gets worse.
I remember losing my closest friends
And seeing their bodies.
I remember how hungry I was and
How cold my feet were.
I remember being captured by the Germans.
I remember being taken by cattle car to prison camp.
I remember the hell of being a prisoner.
I remember escaping and sneaking through
Germany back to the American lines.
I remember the ambulance and the hospital.
I REMEMBER COMING HOME!