WWII poem: Long lost love story
WWII poem: Long lost love story
LINCOLN - It was June of 1944 and Gordon Jackson was homesick.
Two years after joining the military, he had been aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Pacific for more than a year, with only eight days total spent on land. Some friends had just been counted among the casualties.
He was also lovesick.
His future wife, Barbara, was back home in Lincoln, the town where they both grew up. When he was a third-grader at Lincoln Community School on Breakneck Hill Road, she was in first, "but we weren't looking at each other then," Mrs. Jackson said.
She sang at his 8th-grade graduation. He still remembers the song, "Glow Worm" by the Mills Brothers.
So on that night in June of 1944, he decided to write her a poem. It was not unusual, Mr. Jackson said, admitting he waxes poetic from time to time. But this poem would have to be hand delivered to his gal when he returned home.
"Tonight I'm watching the sun set, out on the Philippine Sea," it begins.
He wrote he had been counting the weeks and months since he had seen her, "...but tonight I'm watching the sunset out on the Philippine Sea. And then I look east or over the ocean toward a gal I hope waiting for me."
For fear of having his poem censored so as not to reveal the location of the ship, Mr. Jackson held onto it, delivering it to the future Mrs. Jackson when he returned home.
They were wed on Nov. 7, 1945, in Norfolk, Va., the day before he shipped out again, taking a honeymoon alone, he said, to South America.
"We never saw each other," Mr. Jackson said. "We did so much writing."
Mr. Jackson, 91, and Mrs. Jackson, 89, celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary just a few days before Veterans Day.
The poem has sat on Mrs. Jackson's bureau almost as long, she said.
It wasn't until their grown children - Robert, Ramona, Kathleen and Julie - discovered it, the Jacksons talked about it as a family for the first time amongst tears from those moved by the prose.
"We didn't think that much of it," Mrs. Jackson said. "It was just a part of our life."
The Jacksons, with seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, are close-knit. Mr. Jackson was born on a 20-acre farm that stretched from Great Road to Sherman Avenue. It has since been divvied up among the children to form "The Jackson Compound," he joked.
"We've got them all around us, which is wonderful," Mrs. Jackson said.
Mr. Jackson, a former deputy chief of the Lime Rock Fire District, was a contractor and carpenter by trade, contributing his building skills to many of the houses, as well as the Hearthside House. Mrs. Jackson volunteered at the Lincoln Animal Shelter for 25 years.
In the years since the war ended, Mr. Jackson, who served for six years, has kept in touch with veterans groups in the area.
He is an honor roll member of the WWII Lime Rock Grange, along with his late brothers Thomas and Robert. He was honored at a USO Canteen Dance event in June.
Mr. Jackson has belonged to the Saylesville American Legion Post 33 for 62 years. He just recently joined a Smithfield VFW.
As grand marshal, he led the Lincoln Memorial Day Parade in 2006.
In March, he visited the monuments in Washington, D.C., with an Honor Flight group.
This year in honor of Veterans Day they attended a ceremony at the Statehouse in Providence, followed by a parade in which their grandson Joshua Thibeault, a veteran who served in Afghanistan and Bosnia, carried one of 100 torches.
As Mr. Jackson gets older, though he has a pacemaker and occasional trouble breathing, his mind never waivers. Mr. Jackson didn't need his children finding the poem to jog his memory.
After all, he has had it memorized for all these years.
"Certain things stay," he said.
Here is Gordon Jackson's poem to his beloved Barbara:
Tonight I'm watching the sun set,
out on the Philippine sea.
When I looked east o'er the ocean toward a land where
I long to be
I remember the day that we parted
I still see a tear in your eye
I remember the words that were whispered,
trying hard not to cry
You said that you would be waiting and be there
whene're I came home.
That is the day we parted
The day that I left you to roam.
I've counted the hours and days now, the weeks
and the months by the shore.
Soon I hope to return and I know that I'll wander no more,
but tonight I'm watching the sunset out on the Philippine Sea
and then I look east o're the ocean toward a girl
I hope waiting for me.
- All my Love, Gordon