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POEM BY DAVID AXELROD, MD

WHY WE JUMP

I am a Paratrooper
I hail from every state in the Union;
I come from every walk of life;
through my veins, course the rich red blood of every nation.

I'm Tony, I'm Pat,. I'm lvan, I'm Frank,
I'm Rudolph, and Chang, Levi and Hank,
My grandfather rode the steppes of far flung Russia;
Nailed shoes in Czechoslovakia,
Pressed luscious grapes from off the vine,
To make Italian wine;
Planted the rice in his starving China;
Battered .the ice to sail his boats,
Out of Norway, to every coast;
Laughed at the heat of the desert sands;
Defied the cold, weathered the drought,
To pioneer a home in some far off land,
Yes, a congress of nations, from iron men wrought,
Fused in the fires of battles fought.

l hit the the silk over every land,
A vanguard for those who will follow later.
 I'm hard and I'm tough --- made of the right stuff,
That asks no quarter, nor gives no quarter,
And take it from me, I never bluff.
I'm briefed and checked while stars look down,
At 23:30 I leave the ground.
Two rows of men sit silent then,
Two rows on men on a mission, bent.
Fit and ready --- trained to kill.
Two rows of men, facing each other,
And what do we think, sitting there?
Well, your guess is good, just as good as mine --
But, remember! We're human! We all love life,
And because we love life, a fear is born;
No, nothing. to be ashamed of,
No veil to be drawn, nothing to hide.
For after all --- maybe its curtains for some.
It may mean we're starting our last long ride,
And well, try as we might,
There's tension in the plane, as we fly tonight.
But, thank God, it will pass, we know it will pass,
Yet for the moment, we're only humanly, downright scared---
We get to thinking of home and our childhood days,
Important things that once seemed small,
Our dog, the pony, the game of ball.
The Junior Prom, our first long pants;
Then suddenly your thoughts are broken,
As filtering through the veil of the past comes a prayer.
Out of the silence it comes, sitting there.
And you know you're not alone in your fear tonight,
That others are human ---just like you,
Just plain men, with minds and hearts.
Ready and wilting to do their part, yet--
No, nothing to to be ashamed of, that cold, sick feeling,
When your belly snaps tight, and your throat goes dry,
and you swallow hard, and glance at the guy across from you,
And wonder why, all this war, all this hell, this man made blight,
That ordains somewhere there'll be death tonight.

A half-hour!  An hour!  Now the feeling passes,
Gone is the dread, of what lies ahead,
Replaced by the present --- that's all that counts.
All that matters is your jump tonight.
Now, you check your gear, the hand grenades,
Your rope, the rifle, the shoulder knife,
The emergency 'chute across your breast,
Your automatics, two of them;
Then you cast a glance at the other men.
Yes, Tony, Pat,. lvan, Frank, Rudolph, Chang, Levi; Hank.
All are there!  Rarin' to go do their share.
Now, a buzzer sounds above the engines' drone,
Three short stabs as it crashes home,
The jumpmaster rises --- Our objective is near ---
Too late for any ifs, or buts,
As again that cold, icy hand grips hard at your guts,
And you wonder, oh God!  How you wonder!
Will your 'chute blossom out? Or --

Now a red light flashes! One final check! An order rings out!
Comes a klink [sic] of buckles, as you snap on the web,
Check the 'chute of the fellow just ahead,
You sense a cold rush of air from the starboard part,
Now, a green bulb burns in the [sic, line ends]
It's time!  The big moment has come!
Oh God!  Dear God!  Don't let me freeze in my jump tonight!
Don't let me freeze!  Please, don't let me freeze, 
Over and over, you breathe that prayer,
Fervently, humble, standing there.

Then, suddenly, it comes!  In a flash, it comes!
Poised there, in the open port  Crouched there, leg pulled up;
As you glimpse a stream, far below,
Silvery white in the moon's soft glow;
The fields of wheat beside the stream,
Where, in days of peace, the reapers glean,
As you grab the rip-cord, cold and bare,
Catch your breath, leap into space,
A curse on your lips, a muttered prayer;
Yes, it's then you know and understand,
You're jumping, tonight, for all mankind,
For every nation, in every clime,
For every heart that beats for peace,
And it matters not, the creed or race,
To bring to the world, a saving grace,
Of peace on earth, a blessed peace.
Yes, a congress of nations, the paratroopers,
Fit and ready, trained to kill;
Jumping tonight, that men may live;
Floating death from out the skies,
For anyone who ever tries,
To stop this world, in its onward march;
Silent death from out the blue,
Fighting for peace --- fighting for you;
Hitting the silk, unafraid,
sudden death --- AMERICAN MADE!
 

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