The following poem was written by my father, Harold Eugene Hamilton, shortly after he turned 18 in June 1944 and was preparing to enter the U.S. Navy. It was given to me years ago by his mother, my grandmother, Josephine Hamilton of rural Springfield.
I rediscovered Dad’s simple and sincere verse recently while shuffling through family memorabilia and genealogical papers.
It spoke to me not only as words from my father as a youth, but also as a reflection of the heartfelt sentiments of a generation of young men who willingly left their beloved homes and families to preserve our freedoms — just as many men and women have in the decades since.
I offer it now as a simple tribute to all those who have served. It seems appropriate that we should pause as we begin a new year to remember them not just as soldiers, sailors or airmen, but as our fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.
Though penned nearly 74 years ago, I’m sure the emotions embodied in these lines are much the same as those in the hearts of young servicemen and servicewomen today, facing uncertain personal futures to continually secure the freedoms preserved by our parents’ “Greatest Generation” in World War II.
My eyes wander across the mountains green,
And yet to me they are yet unseen.
For my thoughts are wandering far away
And they linger (on) those days of yesterday —
Yesterday when no cares or worries I had;
Yesterday, oh the yesterday when I was a carefree lad,
Through the fields and enticing forests to roam,
For that was my daylight home;
And in my dreams those scenes rest yet;
Those were the days I will never forget.
I can remember the rolling hills and clear streams,
From which the eye of nature forever gleams;
And those scenes incessantly to my mind return;
And for those days I will ever yearn.
But those days are of the happy past.
For my country does bind me fast —
To a duty which unconquerable pride compels,
Till our forces shall the conceited enemy expel.
And then we shall peace and prosperity gain;
When peace and contentment will then supremely reign,
Those scenes will again show themselves in repeat
And once again I will be found in my wild retreat.
— Harold Eugene Hamilton
H.E. Hamilton served with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific as a water tender on a number of ships during World War II. He was discharged on July 17, 1946, returned to his “wild retreat” in the Ozarks, married in 1947, and with his bride, the former Hazellee Daly of Springfield, reared four boys on a small dairy farm in Dallas County, frequenting the Ozarks’ “enticing forests” and “rolling hills and clear streams” until shortly before his death on Dec. 1, 2005.
Copyright James E. Hamilton 2018. Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Contact him at email@example.com.