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A Warrior's Poem: "Murder--So Foul"

Members of the 104th Infantry marching though the snow soon after their attack of Christmas day. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Members of the 104th Infantry marching though the snow soon after their attack of Christmas day. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

While cleaning out their father Sgt. James Lenihan’s basement after he died, Brooklyn, N.Y. based Rob Lenihan and his sister, Joan Lenihan, found this poem that he wrote about World War II. Lenihan was assigned to the 413th Infantry in the 104th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, nicknamed "the Timberwolves." He toured Europe fighting.

With the mantra, "nothing in hell must stop the Timberwolves," the division was responsible for overrunning the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, and was later recognized as a liberating unit by the U.S. Army's Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Sgt. Lenihan was wounded in action and later received a Purple Heart. He never spoke with his family about the emotions he experienced during war, and they were very surprised to find this poem. Towards the end of Lenihan’s life, he actively sought out his old war buddies and described his time serving as one of the "worst and greatest experiences" of his life.

The DCoE Blog Team thanks the Lenihan family for allowing us to share this poem with our readers. We hope it helps you in your personal healing process, or those with whom you work or love.

I shot a man yesterday
And much to my surprise,
The strangest thing happened to me
I began to cry.

He was so young, so very young
And Fear was in his eyes,
He had left his home in Germany
And came to Holland to die.

And what about his Family
were they not praying for him?
Thank God they couldn't see their son
And the man that had murdered him.

I knelt beside him
And held his hand--
I begged his forgiveness
Did he understand?

It was the War
And he was the enemy
If I hadn't shot him
He would have shot me.

I saw he was dying
And I called him "Brother"
But he gasped out one word
And that word was "Mother."

I shot a man yesterday
And much to surprise
A part of me died with Him
When Death came to close
His eyes.


Comments (81)

  • Jackie 05 Sep

    As a daughter of a career Navy Father, 28 years, a Navy husband 22 years, a mother and grandmother this theme has crossed my mind so often. My heart goes out to all young men and women who have been and wil be put in harms way to protect America. You raise your child to love and honr our fellow man, then if it happens they are led to join the military then they must learn to kill and be prepared that death could come sooner then they thought. That their friends could die in their arms. How can they then come back to their families and be the same person. Never..They aren't the same person. They have been to hell and back, as an old war movie was named. I think this poem is awesome. I think that the gentelman that wrote this has left his family a very special and memorable tribute. I hope he was a wonderful Dad and friend and I hope that he was honored for the part he played in helping America stay Free. God bless all our service people from the past, present and future. They are our future. Thank you to the family for allowing this to be published.
  • Tina Book 05 Sep

    This is one of the saddest and most profound poems I have ever read. May God bless this warriour as he was not blesses here on earth... Many prayers go out to his family for we not know the sufferig inside another especially as it pertains to war. Proud ARMY Mom and strong supporter of our soldiers no matter where they are or where they came from.
  • Leslie Hufstedler-Alvarez 05 Sep

    Thank you for sharing Lenihan Family! God Bless your Soldier for his sacrifices! Thank you
  • Susan Edwards 05 Sep

    This is just another reason we should all support the troops, even if we do not supporrt the war.
  • John Brookhouser 05 Sep

    One day I pray we may never have to have a poem like this written again. God bless all
  • Josephine Nikita 05 Sep

    The disclaimer itself is offensive. Who in God's name thought that was necessary or good to put there? What buffoon would think the poem, by appearing here, was indeed some official stance of the US government?
  • Lyn 05 Sep

    I too have been moved by the eloquence and sentiment of this man. Thank you for sharing this poem with the world.
  • alice 05 Sep

    That is such a beautiful yet sad poem. Rest in peace all who gave of themselves so we can be free.
  • Duane Kimball 05 Sep

    Heart rendering. It makes one feel as sorry for the German soldier as our own. May peace come in our time.
  • Aimee Borboa 05 Sep

    Extremely touching. This poem brought tears to my eyes. God Bless all of our soldiers even if we do not support a war. They are not only soldiers, but they are Human. Thank you Lenihan family for sharing this.
  • Gwenn Zeoli 05 Sep

    What a beautiful poem to reflect on what it means to be a soldier. We can never know the turmoil that our veterans live with. My father is a veteran of WWII, he doesn't like to talk about it very much either. I once asked him if he had ever shot anyone, he said: "God, I hope not, I just aimed in the direction from where the shot came, I never aimed at anyone intentionally." I believe that isthe way a lot of soldiers are. You, as a human being, never want to be responsible for taking another life. But, war is hell, no matter what you believe. Its easy to sit here on the outside looking in, I wouldn't want to have that responsibility, that's for sure. Thank God, for ALL of our brave young women and men. May Mr. Lenihan have finally found the peace that he obviously longed for. He and the young man he had no choice but to kill are now reunited, in the most peaceful of places. God Bles sthem both. Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem. I have bookmarked it for my nephews who are in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively. I wish them comfort, safety, and God's comforting care.
  • Mike Land 05 Sep

    When will we finally be outraged at the cost of "freedom". Was our freedom really threatened in Vietnam? (I lost a brother and many friends in that one) Is our freedom threatened in Iraq? (I was there 43 months as a civilian contractor) Or are we duped by an elite who knows we will patriotically rally 'round the flag and be afraid to blaspheme by questioning the motive we're given for outrageous wars. We lost in Vietnam, and didn't lose any freedom. So what did my brother and 50,000 other good boys die for? When will we become a Christ-like nation?
  • Allie 05 Sep

    wow.. just wow.. i've always wondered about that. if the soldiers ever felt that way.. i'm elated? i find it depressing that wars have to happen.. and this is it's outcome... may those soldiers soul find peace.
  • Joy 05 Sep

    I find it sad that this poem "in no way reflect[s] or represent[s] the views, positions, or ideas of the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or the United States government." This is a heartfelt, deeply moving, and human experience of war that I would hope that the U.S. Armed Services would embrace and acknowledge as the experience of some, if not many, of its members.
  • Hope 05 Sep

    This is a beautiful poem--very moving. Thanks to Sgt. James Lenihan's family for their willingness to share this small part of their father.
  • Satya 05 Sep

    The great poem shows men in arms can also experience profound emotions as intensely as any other. I just have a feeling the poem may have been a reconstruction of the "unque existential experience" long after it happened, possibly after the author saw the great film "The ballad of a Soldier". I feel one cannot articulate anything so well soon after passing through the event. As a survivor of the Mumbai terror attack, who saw young terrorists shoot others at Oberoi, let me tell you I felt no hatred or love; I just came out blank, could not make sense of what to feel about it. The author of this great poem was a sensitive soul, like most of us us, who sang his song silently within. God bless all and keep sending his light to all so that some day we may live beyond hatred.
  • J. Cassidy 05 Sep

    Thank You!! also thanks to all the great men like your father who have fought for this nation. Some of our wars have been "necessary" but a few of them were caused by our politicians trying to divert attention. The fighters in all of them deserve our respect and appreciation.
  • CA 05 Sep

    Thank you for putting this on the news .What a good family. May the world learn something today... Compassion can be found IN THE WORST OF CIRCUMSTANCES.. BLESS ALL OF YO LENIHAN'S .Thank you for sharing your father with us .
  • Patricia Wilson 05 Sep

    The poem is incredibly beautiful and well written. The author has revealed the depths of despair he felt at the time of the event, and still felt throughout his life. What a powerful time to read this as we approach Memorial Day. Thanks to the family for sharing.
  • Mike 05 Sep

    What a crazy world
  • Ray Hogue 05 Sep

    Please remember that as our soldiers return from these bloody wars that even if you cannot see a wound the wounds are still there. As Memorial Day is upon us let us remember that the first step in healing their torment is to welcome our soldiers back with a handshake, a hug, and a job well done. To my children in the military (RJ, Joe and Dawn) we are very proud of your service and wish you a safe return.
  • Anthoyn Ratcliffe 05 Sep

    I've the greatest respect for Sgt James lenihan. He's shown what folly war is and how, in his words, he murdered a yougn man. War is brutal and should never be taken lightly and in my opinion should only be sought in self defence. At least he showed respect and sorrow for killing a young German, some today could learn a lot from him.
  • Flo Wolf 05 Sep

    I would like to personally thank the Lenihan family for sharing this poem. Whether a person has served in the military or not, this poem communicates the personal pain and inner conflict Sgt. James Lenihan and so many other Veterans suffer during and after a war. I wish I could thank each and every member of our past and present military, because I would tell each of them how truly thankful I and everyone else in this country is that they do what they do, and suffer those inner demons, to give me and everyone else the wonderful life we enjoy in this country."Proud to be an American" doesn't even begin to communicate my appreciation!!
  • Susan 05 Sep

    God bless all our troops, past and present.
  • Susan B Carpenter 05 Sep

    To the Lenihan family, Thank you so much for sharing this deeply meaningful aspect of your father. Firstly, I want to extend my condolences to you on his recent passing. Secondly, I just wanted to say that this poem is a striking example of the the ways that parents "hide" certain things about themselves in an effort to protect and shelter their children, even after the children are adults. Your dad's poem is a stark reminder to me to become more forth-coming with my own children so we may come to have a better understanding and appreciation of each other while we still can. I am happy that you found this poem, as it as given you a richer and more meaningful understanding of your father. It is truly a treasure!
  • bill lenhart 05 Sep

    I so wanted to share this with my friends on facebook but was unable to link it. It would be so appropriate on Memorial Day.
  • Patricia Strickland 05 Sep

    That is an awesome poem! I salute and honor our Military!!
  • Jack 05 Sep

    As a current Soldier with the 101st Airborne Division, this poem really touched me. I think it goes to show everyone that even those trained to kill in combat can experience moments of clarity and profoundness while battling the emptiness and desolation of war and death. I respect and admire those Soldiers who can express themselves as eloquently as this one has. Thank you to the Lenihan family for sharing this piece of history and literal art. I salute your father for his sacrifice as well as his expressions. I am sure his work will help us all, including me, to remember that the sanctity of life never ends, even in the darkest fog of war.
  • Tony 05 Sep

    So simple. So direct. So eloquent. So personal. I'm very glad it was shared by the family.
  • Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Robert D. Cote' 05 Sep

    Lenihan Family Your father's poem speaks to what war is really about. The individual's experience. Not what the news tells us. I've gone through deployments, but nothing compared to the 8 deployments to Iraq that my children have endured. I'm thankful that your dad returned and that his poem helped you to see the real man he was. I thank him and the other veterans from World War II for my freedom!
  • Ronda 05 Sep

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It is so beautifully and powerfully sad. It truly reveals the pain of war. God bless all those who serve and their families and friends who love an nurture them.
  • al foley 05 Sep

    I think it is ridiculous that there is a release of liability clause put at the end of this. Is this where we are in this country? I am ashamed of the nonsense that the lawyers of this world have enfolded on us. Can we all just get over it and use a little common sense and be a little less sensitive. This is a truly touching poem and it hits to the very heart of war. My grandfather was in WWII and the night before he left for the south pacific he cried in his new wifes lap (they were married only 3 months before he enlisted) and said why do I have to go, I am not mad at anyone. But he did go and he stood proudly with the other marines at all the first wave invasions in the south pacific. He did his duty even though it conflicted with him. God Bless our troops, God Bless America. We need to take this country back and not forget who we are, turn the TV off and put the cell phone down and teach the new generation what it means to be an American. Happy Memorial Day. Thank you for all that have given everything so that my family and I can have so much.
  • TampaGuy 05 Sep

    I cannot say that I agree with every war we have been involved in but no matter the war or the reason, our solders still need our support. I can only imagine what they went or presently go through. Killing someone even if you are forced due to war, self defense or anything else can and should effect you as a human being. Just knowing this man had these feelings helps us who have not gone to war understand a little more about the feelings of killing someone even in war times. Both individuals are someone's son, daughter, etc. Life was lost. Memorial Day is Monday folks! Raise your flag high in honor of our troops, past and present!!! Thank you for sharing this poem.
  • Jessica 05 Sep

    This is one of the most touching poems I have ever read, as i am currently serving in afghanistan and my husband is serving in Iraq. This is a reality and a fear that we all hold. I pray everyday I will never have to embrace this kind of horror, but I am stand ready to as we are trained to. I know a lot of men and woman who have had to learn to live with the same memories portrayed in this poem, it horrifying, and a very difficult process helping them through it. It things like this that show there is hope though, he had mountains he had to overcome and concur, but he still lived a wonderful life. This poem has left me nearly speechless but i want to thank the family for publishing it, as i forsee this touching a lot of people, not only soldiers but civilians alike, and here is to your father! As he served his country proud! I salute him!
  • Katie 05 Sep

    This is a BEAUTIFUL poem and it says it all about what a tragedy war is. I feel privileged to have read it.
  • Nancy Thines 05 Sep

    My father fought in WWII and more then once he discribed to me these very feelings. He didn't want to kill that boy, but it was his life or the enemy's life. This poem brought a tear to my eye.
  • daddy's girl 05 Sep

    my dad was in the Marines. he served in korea, was a Chosin Reservoir survivor. he also did 2 tours in vietman, one in 1964 and the next time was in 1969. he rarely talked about the events of those wars. but once in awhile he would tell a story, usually about korea, vietnam was the open wound he walked around with for the rest of his life. he passed away in 1999. i am very touched by Mr. Lenihan's poem. thank you for sharing.
  • Daniel G. Clark 05 Sep

    Honoring our soldiers should mean we start taking seriously their teachings about the hellishness of war. We are too easily silenced by those who equate support for soldiers with support for the wars where they are sent. When will we ever learn?
  • daddy's girl 05 Sep

    my dad was in the Marines. he served in korea, was a Chosin Reservoir survivor. he also did 2 tours in vietman, one in 1964 and the next time was in 1969. he rarely talked about the events of those wars. but once in awhile he would tell a story, usually about korea, vietnam was the open wound he walked around with for the rest of his life. he passed away in 1999. i am very touched by Mr. Lenihan's poem. thank you for sharing.
  • Jane Bramwell 05 Sep

    As an amateur historian and former professional genealogist I have spent my working life tracking down the veterans of various wars. I have spent a great deal of time wondering how our men can and could deal with life they lived while at war. My family has been lucky. Down through the generations as my father puts it,"We have always been to young or too old to fight". I have nothing but admiration for the majority of soldiers in any of our wars. They did what they had to do and somehow survived. That Mr. Lenihan retained his humanity and was able to put the thoughts of all warriors in a few simple but moving words is a blessing for all of us. Thank you to his children for allowing the public to share these universal emotions.
  • Alex 05 Sep

    Beautiful, powerful, real!
  • Ben 05 Sep

    That was very touching. A moment in time.
  • Gina Salas 05 Sep

    I was profoundly moved. My youngest son is a Marine and this could have been him.
  • Manoutnumbrd 05 Sep

    While the term "War is Hell" maintains this is a small reminder that these are all someones kids, someones baby, Mother, Father, Wife, Husband, etc...My father was 27 years Air Force. Never in all of his 73 years did he speak of what he did, where he went, war, peace. If he did take live's, which I fully expect he did after teo wars, he never spoke of it even when asked. This was a very powerful poem. Thank you for sharing with this son of a warrior.
  • Dolores Loffelmacher 05 Sep

    Thank you Lenihan family for sharing a part of your father. As a veteran who served during a time with no police actions ongoing, it is difficult to know how our men and women who so bravely serve feel. This poem is so deeply moving. Thank you again for sharing.
  • Manoutnumbrd 05 Sep

    While the term "War is Hell" maintains this is a small reminder that these are all someones kids, someones baby, Mother, Father, Wife, Husband, etc...My father was 27 years Air Force. Never in all of his 73 years did he speak of what he did, where he went, war, peace. If he did take live's, which I fully expect he did after teo wars, he never spoke of it even when asked. This was a very powerful poem. Thank you for sharing with this son of a warrior.
  • Barbara 05 Sep

    Thank you for sharing this! My sister forwarded this to my brothers, sister and me because she thought it sounded like something our Dad would have written. My father was in the Battle of Bulge and he would never talk about his time spent there and if he was asked about it, he would get a sad, far away look in his eyes. Whenever the movie, The Battle of Bulge came on he would quickly turn it off and you could see the tears in his eyes. We always told him how very proud we were of him and his sacrifice he made at the age of 18. Thank all of you who also give that sacrifice and the families that endure this.
  • Daniel G. Clark 05 Sep

    Honoring our soldiers should mean we start taking seriously their teachings about the hellishness of war. We are too easily silenced by those who would equate support for soldiers with support for the wars where they are sent. When will we ever learn?
  • Robert P. Rebholz 05 Sep

    I am overwhelmed by this sad and beautiful poem. God bless Sgt. Lenihan, his family, and all the men and women who keep us safe.
  • Jodi 05 Sep

    To Jackie, your comment was so wonderful, saying everything many of us feel and want to say. Our family has fought for this great nation through almost every war and are proud to do so. God Bless....GeeGee
  • Jodi Goad 05 Sep

    This poem is truly the saddest I have ever read, I can hardly see to type this for the tears, This wonderful, caring soldier put on paper the hurt he felt for a fallen enemy. Thank you for letting us see the tender side of this dear man. God Bless....yes, we do need to support our fighting forces, no matter where they are. Once again, thank you....GeeGee
  • Bill 05 Sep

    What a moving story. It makes me think that one of the worst things about war today is its impersonality - you can wipe out large numbers of people you never see by pushing a button from the other side of the world. If everyone had to look into the eyes of the other human beings they killed and see themselves reflected that person, perhaps wars would be shorter and less terrible.
  • Renate Achterberg 05 Sep

    Dear Lenihan family.Thank you for that poem.I am German and my dad fought in Leningrad,Russia.He never talked about his experience but I know that he had the same feelings like your dad.I asked him once why he shot and his answer was exactly the same as your dad's. It was him or me. Would it be nice if we never had to do this again? So when our soldiers come back from war, which ever country the are from, help them to understand why they had to do what they did. GOD BLESS AMERICA and all the people who want peace. Renate Achterberg
  • D D FELTS 05 Sep

    ATTENTION LENIHAN FAMILY MY GOD ! OUR GOD ! OUR COUNTRY ! OUR WARRIORS ! OUR FREEDOM ! TOUCH BY THIS POEM ? YOU BET !! SGT. LENIHAN'S POEM DISCRIBES MY BROTHERS OWN TORCHER WHILE SERVING IN VEITNAM . HE WAS FACED WITH MANY CHALENGES AND HAUNTED BY ALL ! HE WAS ONLY 19 AND GIVEN HIS OWN PATON OF MEN. HE WAS SUCCESSFUL FOR 14 YEARS (SERVERAL YEARS AS A DRILL SGT.). HAD MARRIED AND HAD TWO BEAUTIFUL SONS. HE TRIED TO FINISH HIS CAREER IN THE ARMY. THE NIGHTMARES, FLASHBACKS STARTED BECOMING MORE INTENSE AND WERE IN LIVING COLOR.THE MORTORS, GUN SHOTS, THE BRIGHT RED BLOOD, THE SMELLS OF THE DEAD, THE ANIMALS EATING THE BODY PARTS, LOOSING ONE OF HIS ON MEN. THERE WASN'T ANY HELP FOR THESE SOLIDERS WHEN THEY RETURNED HOME. HE RESORTED TO DRINKING, THEN HEAVILY. HE LOST HIS FAMILY, HE LOST HIS WILL. FINIALY THE VET. HOSP. PHYS.'S DIANOSED HIM AS HAVING PTSD. HE HAS RECEIVED AND STILL RECEIVING TREATMENTS. ITS HAS BEEN 46 YEARS OF HELL ! A HANDSOME ELVIS LOOKALIKE WITH A BEATIFUL SMILE AND COULD MAKE YOU WANT TO DANCE WHEN HE SANG "YOU AINT NOTHING BUT A HOUND DOG". THANK GOD MY BROTHER ONLY SHARED A FEW OF THE HORRORS HE FACED. AFTER READING THIS POEM, I VISIONED BY BROTHER WRITTING HIS OWN POEM. ONLY IT WOULD BE LIKE THIS : I SHOT A 2 YEAR CHILD TODAY NORTH VIETNAMISE STRAPED WITH GARNADES SENT RUNNING INTO MY PATON ONE OF MY MEN LOST HIS ARM SEVERAL WERE WOUNDED WE PULLED TOGETHER WE FINISHED OUR MISSION I CRIED, WE CRIED THERE WAS NO CHILD FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM SHOULDN'T COME WITH LIES I PRAYED GOD FORGIVE ME BUT A PART OF ME DIED I THANK GOD EVERYDAY FOR ALL THE SOLIDERS FIGHTING FOR MY FREEDOM. AM I WORTH IT? ARE WE WORTH IT? ARE YOU WORTH IT? THEY BELIEVE SO! THEY ARE PROTECTING OUR UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DREAMS. SUPPORT THEM! HONOR THEM THIS MEMORIAL DAY AND EVERYDAY. FLY YOUR FLAGS WITH HONOR!!!!! SHOULD WE NOT TIE A YELLOW RIBBON AROUND THE OLD OAK TREE!!!! SHOW OUR SUPPORT AND PRAY FOR THEIR SAFE RETURN TO THE LAND OF THE FREE. BE THERE NOW FOR THOSE WHO MAY HAVE EXPERIENCES, THAT COULD HAUNT THEM THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. OUR MEN AND WOMEN OFFICERS ARE FIGHTING FOR YOUR CHILD AND CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD. A HUGE THANK YOU MR. LENIHAN'S FAMILY FOR ALLOWING YOUR FATHERS POEM TOUCH MY LIFE TODAY. HE TRULY WAS A GREAT MAN GOD BLESS YOU ALL, OUR SOLIDERS AND OUR COUNTRY !!!!!!!!!!
  • Pat 05 Sep

    Thank you Lenihan Family for sharing a precious piece of your dad. His contribution in that War was truly one of the few wars that protected our Freedom. However, no matter what the cause that they served, they never come home the same nor are their loved ones ever the same. A poignant reminder to live each day the best way you know how, as you do not carry their burden. As Josephine Nikita and Joy stated, I find it so incredibly disrespectful to place a "disclaimer" from any Gov. agency on such as treasure. Sad thing is, today they don't even have the feelings to be ashamed; how very far this government has fallen. Incredibly these men and women still serve, so be grateful and live your life honorable.
  • Ramiro 05 Sep

    I do support war. With horror I am witnessing how my country is being oppressed by a tyrant in plain view of the whole world. Artists, film directors and Nobel Prize winner praise the dictator for some money in their pockets while many die on the streets and my country is sacked by corrupt people Pacifist mandataries ignore reality until it is too late so our sons have to die killing each other Hitler, Mugabe, Castro, Chavez, Iddi Amin, Kaddafi, Sadam Hussein are only a few of the names that history and future will remember It is comforting that a man still feels the horror of killing while politician do not feel anything allowing the killing to happen Sgt. Lenihan thanks to remind us there is still humanity in the simple human beings that have to defend our freedom
  • Brenda on 5/29/2010 05 Sep

    14 years ago on Memorial Day I lost my husband to a rare brain tumor. He served in Vietnam (1967/1969) with the Army " BIG RED 1" as a foot soldier and carried a machine gun. His life was short (49 yrs.old) and this was the result of a war (cause and effect). I know the pain of losing a husband and father and I can identify with the Lenihan family. Thank you for sharing a poem so touching. GOD BLESS each soldier where ever they may be on this day and every day. Don't take any day for granted but enbrace each moment that you have.
  • Sgt Hopkins 05 Sep

    Having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, this poem brings tears to my eyes. Some soldiers deal with this stress in a much different way, but this is a very eloquent expression of emotion that should live on.
  • steve 05 Sep

    A wonderful thing for the family to share what must have been a very private poem by former Sgt. Lenihan since he never shared with anyone while he was living. What a shame it is for anyone to use his poem as a soapbox to promote his/her personal views
  • Mary Galbraith 05 Sep

    Incredibly touching poem - thanks to Lenihan family for sharing it. Incredibly insulting disclaimer at the end. Whose harebrained idea was it to add that?
  • jackie smith 05 Sep

    If you feel like I do...do what I do. Whenever I see an elderly man with vetrans hat indicationg service in Korea and or Vietnam, I shake his hand and say thank you. I do this in plain view of my two young sons. My sons know that they were soldiers just like Dad is, and that the expression of gratitude may be long overdue.
  • Jared 05 Sep

    As an active duty service member. I just want to say to the author of this poem. Thank you for all that you did. Thank you for serving and putting your life on the line everyday for all of us to remain free. I haven't been to war yet, but hoping one day to get that chance. I thank you Lenihan's family for allowing us to read this master piece. God bless your family, and god bless all who served, serve, and will serve in the United States military.
  • Debbie 05 Sep

    This is so sad. It reminds me of my husband. I often wondered what it was like for him in Vietnam. He never would talk about until the last couple of years and I've been with him for 34. I would lay in bed at night and wonder what it must have like for him and the horrors he saw. He had to change clothes when he arrived back in the states so he wouldn't be ridiculed by the protesters. I tried to imagine how I would feel if I put my life on the line for my country and came back home and instead of being thanked I was protested. No matter what war our people fight in we have to remember they didn't ask for the war. Please support the troops no matter what war they are in. They are doing a job our country gave them. I want to thank the Lenihan family for posting the heartbreaking poem. Maybe those who read it will have a heart and stand behind those who fight for our freedom. Thanks to all those who have fought in past and present wars for my feedom. I cannot thank you enough. My heart goes out to all those who have lost family or friends, fighting sometimes for things some don't understand.
  • BILL/Baltimore 05 Sep

    I have a saying that i believe says it all about the sacrifice all of our soldiers endured during their defense of our country. HISTORY DOES NOT ENTRUST FREEDOM TO TH WEAK OR TIMID.............GOD BLESS ALL OF OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM ALL OVER THE WORLD AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
  • Steven 05 Sep

    This letter is very reminiscent of a similar passage in "All Quiet on the Western Front" in which the young German protagonist spends hours in a shell hole with the body of his French "opponent." I remember all the dead, the physically and psychologically maimed, and those made refugees in our perpetual wars, but I do not "celebrate" the madness that continually seeks to not only justify but glorify doing the absolutely horrible things to others that we would never want done to us or to our loved ones. The Golden Rule is not subject to despots' whims or majority rule.
  • Cicada Brokaw 05 Sep

    I find most of the responses here very curious. I do agree with most that express a heartfelt response of sympathy to the sacrifice made by service members in confronting the dilemma of being asked to commit murder by ones country. What I find curious is the assumption by most that this is a necessary sacrifice. We will never create a world free from the horrors of war by continuing to commit atrocities of war. Until the majority of citizens of the world refuse to participate in these bloody events of mass murder that we call war, until people realize that each individual is responsible for their own actions, that participating in mass murder in never justified, even though demanded by one's government, only then will we free ourselves from the dark descending spiral of violence that consumes our culture.
  • Jerry Lamontagne 05 Sep

    I read ... I cried
  • Janice Cornforth 05 Sep

    Thank you for this poem. I too cried reading it. My own father was a World War II POW held by the Germans for 2 1/2 years and this poem touches me so very much. I'm not sure why but this poem helps me somehow better appreciate my own father who couldn't talk much about the murders, torture, ovens, etc. in the camps. He did say that the SS weren't human (he called them Monsters) & when they drove their big black cars into the camps "there was trouble." On the other hand, my father said the regular guards of the prison camps ran the gamut of humanity from mouthy di$$ heads to decent young men(some right off the farm like my father) all showing the normal range of human emotions & behaviors. They were 'The Enemy," but he still saw them as fellow human beings. I must reiterate though that my father couldn't identify with the SS soldiers & to this very day, he is terrified of the them. If he hears the term all he can do is shake his head & repeat-"they weren't human, they were monsters, when you saw the big black cars you knew there would be trouble." I truly wish that my father & our family had resources like this wonderful website. Times have changed. The wisdom of the day after World War II for the returning POW was just go home & forget about the war. I'm so glad this attitude seems to have changed & people are getting the help they need.
  • Terry Schreiber 05 Sep

    If BP hasn't cut the pipe yet!!! The mud they pumped in the hole, "LIQUID NITROGEN" Freeze the the "BOP" and make a freeze plug!!! USA is the way!!! ALWAY's!!! AND NO I'm not crazy!!! YET!!!
  • Bill Yamanaka 05 Sep

    Beautiful, powerful poem. Thanks for posting it. An item of note, however, is that the disclaimer (while perhaps founded in legal requirements) should undergo some common sense review. Many of my fellow patriots and friends were offended by it. Even when it is necessary to go with posts, it is inappropriately worded. To say that posts "in no way reflect or represent the views,..." is foolhardy at best, especially in this instance. It would be more accurate to say posts "do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, ..." But for this one, I'd have left off any disclaimer. Totally unnecessary and a bit of judgment would have been nice.
  • Gertrude Crecca 05 Sep

    I was born in Germany in 1942 during WWII. My birth certificate is the only one in my family that is stamped with the seal of Hitler's Third Reich. Not only did it mark my birth certificate it also burdened my entire life with the consequences of experiencing war as a child. My father at the age of 40 became a soldier in the regular German Army assigned to Berlin. I asked him the same questions. Did you have to kill someone ? No, he never carried a gun but I learned later he drove munition trucks to the Russian front and was a moving target for planes that were straffing him whether he carried munitions or on his return carrying refugees fleeing from the approaching Russians. My aunt lost two sons in WWII in Russia. One of them died a day after my second birthday. So my birthday is always a combination of celebration and remembering, as is almost every holiday. Memorial Day has always been a difficult time for me, a German immigrant. I mourned for the deaths of the American soldiers, sailors and pilots while feeling the guilt of knowing that some of them were killed by Germans. I also mourned for the loss of life of my very young cousins who I never knew personally. I did know the deep sorrow that hung over their family and the consequences of their deaths too numerous to write about here. When I heard this poem read by the son of Jack Lenihan yesterday on a cable tv news segment, it brought some resolution to the ambivalence that I have felt each and every Memorial Day since I came to this country in 1950. I am old now, approaching my seventies. I am grateful for very different reasons than most of the previous comments. To read this poem and experience the compassion that was extended towards that young German soldier by the young man who killed him touched me to the core. I can believe that part of him died too. I worked as a Clinical Social Worker at a local VA Hospital with mostly Viet Nam veterans who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When a veteran was able to talk about the horrors that they experienced, which didn't happen very often, I was struck at how often they would mention the traumatizing impact of witnessing the death of the first person they killed up close. I am grateful for the sacrifices made by the American soldier who not just fought for the freedom of the U. S. but who liberated the German people themselves and kept them free for years afterwards. Through my childhood war experiences, I learned that war has never been the answer. It is all to evident that one war plants the seeds for yet another. The only people who go to war are those who fear losing everything, and those who have nothing to lose. The remainder are forced or volunteer to fight their battles. The deaths and the physical and psychological injuries are suffered by both sides of a conflict, and more and more the casualties are those of the civlian population, mostly women and children. Although the fighting has stopped, there are veterans for whom the war continues in their nightmares and recurring flashbacks and memories. May we never forget them, all those who are Missing in Action and those "who gave all"......and for those who were the enemy. The real cost of war is in the magnitude of human loss. Thank you to Sergeant James Lenihan, may he rest in peace. Thanks for the words and thoughts of his poem which live on and which have brought some peace to my own heart. Trude
  • Diane Stefani 05 Sep

    My Father also survived the Chosin Resevoir, emerging with a Purple Heart. And after spending 29 years as a career military officer, I am sure he would have been touched by Sgt. Lenihan's one on one experience. Makes one wonder about the emotional de-programming that takes place when a drone attack is conducted like a computer "war" game. Many faceless victims left behind and alone in death. This , as well, points out the unacceptable, senseless killing of mass and unknown targets.
  • jim warfield 05 Sep

    My Great Grandfather met a Confederate soldier on a path in the woods, just the two of them, swords were drawn, the Southerner died in my Grandfather's arms saying "Don't feel bad, I was trying to kill you too." forgivingness from your dieing "enemy"! WOW! This poem so reminded me of this Civil War incident on a path in the woods....
  • Amanda 05 Sep

    Beautiful reply poem!! Both Poems made me cry.
  • Nick F Stamatis 05 Sep

    I come to you now. I am the man that Sgt Lenihan killed. This is: My Answer to Sergeant Lenihan Soldier I see you coming, Scared and cautious down by me. I see the sadness in your face As you knell upon your knee. On this tortured battlefield, Trading bullets we did meet. By only fate did yours reach first, And now I’m at your feet I fear my life is fleeting I feel it draining out. It looks you came to comfort and to quell my primal shout. Are those my tears upon your face? Are they for me or you? What majesty they bring to me, It seems you feel it too. You seem to be about my age, Maybe friends if I’d but wait. But my time is going on, Plummeting towards my fate. And now you put my hand in yours, And erase what you have done. I see the shocking truth so clear. To stop before war’s begun! You’ve changed the fear upon my brow, To a need to express my heart. And the wish to change things, Before these battles start. I have so much to tell you, So much of you I want to know. Do you feel my forgiveness, Tell me quickly before I go. And as my strength is failing, My mind is not so clear. How can I convey my thoughts To one who’s become so dear. What one word could I summon, What one name could I call. What could I do for you, That would express it all. I think that I have it now, In these moments how I’ve grown. Trust the meaning of this word. In tomorrows when you’re home. Your grace helped and gave me, A wonderful and loving clue. So in your thoughtful future, Know it really came from you. That clue was monumental, It’s from you my strength was found I give your hand an answering squeeze, And my world it’s final sound. You closed my life with joy, When you chose to call me “Brother.” Now back to you that universal word. The antithesis to war . . . it’s “Mother”. Wash that anguish from your face And know that this is true. If the roles had been reversed, Would I be half the man as you? I feel myself floating upward now, A strangers agony my path did pave. For you my friend have given all. A comforting journey to my grave. nfs 6/26/10
  • Kaustav Chakraborty 05 Sep

    I am not American but I agree that this poem is not just the fillings of a brave soldier from the front , it is also a piece of knowledge that has been wonderfully embedded in the poem and passed from that brave generation to the new generation ....from the a old soldier who has seen the horrors of war trying to teach his children that no matter what happens war is the real enemy.I am moved by the depiction of the scene where he held the German soldier in his hand and called him "brother"...how true in death how can you distinguish one as your friend or enemy...?? That brave man has written the poem after his own experience.but we can all understand from this that behind the tough exterior of a battle hardened soldier,there is always a simple man with a heart...the heart is his toughest weapon.... I salute you SGT.James Lenihan...and all the service personnel of the armed forces
  • Chucky Doll 05 Sep

    Thanks to all those who have fought in past and present wars for my freedom. I cannot thank you enough. My heart goes out to all those who have lost family or friends, fighting sometimes for things some don't understand.
  • kris konefal 05 Sep

    Dear Lenihan family That was a very moving poem and describes many a combat vets feelings my grandfather Edmund Konefal also served in the 413th Inf reg and would sometimes mention the war but rarely would mention the liberation of the camps. Thank You for sharing this poem. kris konefal
  • Michael H Ballard 05 Sep

    A very powerful poem. Should be must reading. Thank you to a very brave veteran who took the time to write it, and a brave family to share it. Thank you.
  • peter 05 Sep

    here a link to a song about american civil war: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snWlTIkxzLg
  • patrick lenihan 05 Sep

    what a beautiful heartfelt poem from a brave man with a conscience!! he must have learned the value of human life at an early age, probably from his parents. too bad our leaders here and overseas don’t have the same values and sense of decency when they send their youth off to kill or be killed. its people like james lenihan who maintain a semblance of sanity in a mad world!!!

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