Honoring veterans on Veterans Day isn’t an annual ritual for Gil Alexander who lives on a ranch in the Hendrix area. He was unable to serve in the military but lost many of his good friends during the Vietnam War.
Walking among the many white crosses and marble tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery moved him to write a poem, one of many he has written since he first wrote one for his grandchildren in 1995 after hearing a radio advertising for a dog collar. His grandchildren liked Dr. Seuss poems so he wrote “Three Free Fleas Please,” and since has added to his collection and read his poems to children in elementary schools.
On the anniversary of 9-11-01 this year, he recalled his visit to Arlington and the many monuments honoring veterans since the Civil War.
“Anyone who can walk through Arlington or visit the Vietnam Wall without being moved is indeed a non-feeling person,” said Alexander.
Alexander grew up in the Sherman area and married his high school sweetheart upon graduation. They both attended college together and when the Vietnam War began he tried to join ROTC but was turned down for physical reasons. He grew in the shadow of Perrin Air Force Base where his father was in the Army Air Corps and remained there as a mechanic after the war. His father would take him to work and he wanted to grow up to be a pilot.
He earned a Master’s Degree and moved with his wife to Montana where he and his wife both taught geology at a state college and later started a water quality and research business where they taught teachers how to conduct field research on blue green algae in the Missouri River. They returned to Colbert to help Marilyn’s father run the ranch in 2005. He has also spent time with the Lake Texoma Association studying the algae problem here.
Alexander is very emotional when he talks about those who gave their lives and makes no attempt to hold back the tears as he relates his trips to Arlington and the rows and rows of servicemen and women who have given their lives for this country.
“I think about all the lives represented by those crosses,” he said. “We are indeed a fortunate nation to be able to enjoy our freedom, thanks to those who made the supreme sacrifice”
By Gil Alexander
I stare at crosses pure and white
where his brave soul can now take flight
where a widow sobs with mournful eyes
as she explains why Daddy died.
I hear a bugle’s plaintive note
as the lump grows larger in my throat
It fills the air with sounds that bleed
and plays the tune for all to heed.
We place this soldier in the ground.
His life is gone; his body found.
In saving friends, he gave his life.
His last words were of child and wife.
And now he lies beyond that cross
his youthful death, our nation’s loss.
I cannot help but shed a tear
for each life here was oh so dear.
I bow my head in silent thought
and know that valor can’t be bought
I hope somehow, his soul can see
the thanks I give because I’m free.