Saturday, August 16, 2008

Berlin and Georgia

Dear Readers,
I am today officially announcing that I will no longer commit to posting on this blog every Friday.  However, I will also commit to not dropping off the face of the earth, as some of my blogging friends have done recently.

I do have something to say today concerning last Wednesday, 13 August.  On that day, 47 years ago, the Communists erected the Wall in Berlin, splitting families who were apart that day and destroying the economy of half of one of the world's great cities.

In the summer of 1964, a West Point classmate and I visited Berlin after our summer duties with US Troops in Germany.  With the Wall only three years old, and still quite crude, we sat at an outdoor cafe and watched an elderly woman on the street corner look at her watch and look through binoculars, across the Wall.  Soon, an elderly man, several blocks into East Berlin, leaned out of his window, with binoculars, and waved at his wife.  The meaning of Freedom has never been made clearer to me.

When I arrived in Berlin as a new second lieutenant in December 1966, I again visited the Wall and wrote the following poem, published in the Berlin Observer, the local command newspaper, and picked up in most of the Berlin press.  

"Freedom's Outpost" is its name
And concrete blocks its living shame 
But yet this half stands tall.
For here have many people died
While trying to regain hope and pride
By traversing the Wall. 

The enemy has tried to prove
A city cannot live by love
From those in Freedom's lands.
And so they halted trucks and trains,
But Liberty relied on planes -
And Free Berlin still stands.

The other side's a different place
Where sentry dogs walk silent pace
Among the towers and wire.
Where escapees are shot on sight,
And yet they try, both day and night,
Rekindling Freedom's fire.

So we who guard the precious light
Commit ourselves to keep it bright,
Remembering those who fall;
For someday this will no more be
The city split by tyranny,
The city with a Wall...

The Wall came down on 9 November 1989, as many of you remember.  But it had been a tough and bloody 28 years for the people of Berlin.

In 1994, when President Clinton retired the Berlin Brigade colors, I was in London, retired from the military for two years and working as an investment banker.  The Army tracked me down, and the Berlin Observer asked if my poem of 28 years earlier could be read at the ceremony.  Although I could not attend the ceremony, I was honored to consent.

Today, the Russians are back at their old tricks again, claiming "breakaway provinces" never actually belonged to the little country of Georgia in the first place.  Can it be long before they once again start building walls?


Jean/ladyjosh said...

Kernal Ken, We had the pleasure of reading that poem back in 1968 and we were very proud to know you then and as we read it again today we are just as proud. We also watch and wait. Jean and Joan

Rachelle said...

The poem was so poignant. Thank you for sharing it.

Apis Melliflora said...

Let's hope and pray that your poignant poem can remain a portrait of the past.

Dave Guerra said...

Kernal Ken, great poem thanks for taking the time to post it. Please visit I would like to talk more about your time in Berlin and with the Berlin Brigade.

Dave Guerra

Matt said...

My heart goes out to the Russian people. Having lived there for almost 2 years I know that the majority of them are good people just like you and me who have fallen victim throughout history to poor leadership. Let us hope and pray that history does not repeat itself.

Christie Norris said...

If you haven't yet, you should consider writing a book, Ken. Your writing and descriptions are always amazing to me!