A Tennessee poet to rival Kipling

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2004

Tommy Atkins is what the British have called their typical soldier in the ranks since the Duke of Wellington coined the term in 1843. Rudyard Kipling in his poem Tommy, wanted to show how civilians treat the military as heroes in time of war, and as drains on the taxpayers once peace is won!

The publican 'e up and sez., 'We serve no red coats here.'

The girls behind the bar they laughed and giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street an' to myself sez, I:

'O it's Tommy this and Tommy that an' Tommy go away";

But it's ' Thank you, Mister Atkins' when the band begins to play…"

Some things haven't changed much since Kipling wrote that masterpiece. American WW I veterans who were camped out in Washinton, D.C., demanding their rightful pensions were driven out of town like cattle going to the slaughter by successor American soldiers following the end of WW I. Vietnam War veterans continue to die of cancer and other maladies caused by Agent Orange, but the Department of Veterans Affairs turns a blind eye to them. Today, active duty military enlisted men and women are underpaid even though they are volunteers, and some of their families back home have to rely on food stamps in order to survive.

But, there are members of The Next Greatest Generation - our young people of today - who are working diligently to remember and praise Mister Atkins and his modern day counterparts. Such effort is being spearheaded by a talented young lady who writes poems and sends them to active duty military personnel all over the world especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. She writes:

His clothes are torn and tattered, His body covered in dirt.

The mean things that are said to him, Always seem to hurt.

He is always there, Never going anywhere.

Never asks for much. Not a smile nor a touch.

Where did he come from? No one cares to ask.

He watches everyone, Slowly as they pass.

They look down at him, As if he were a disgrace.

No one wants him around, Did you look into his face?

He could be your uncle, A brother or a friend.

He could be your father, so why can't you deal with him?

He is down on his luck, But that doesn't mean he can't win.

A little show of compassion, Might be his only friend.

He might be a soldier who never really came home,

Is it his faith to spend the rest of his life alone?

So take a close look around you – look deep into his eyes.

He is not there to deceive you or fill you full of lies.

Open up your heart and lend a helping hand,

Do unto others like the good book commands.

Ask if you can help or just say Hello,

Anything you do could be the kindest thing he'd know.

This bit of genius just above was conceived by a young talented lady patriot Candi Bennett from Tennessee. Move over Mr. Kipling. You have company!