From a Classified Location in England

Dear Jim—my son—I write from far away.
From England, Spring of 1944.
June first! That means you’re six years old today!
So happy birthday, son! And many more!
Please know my heart is with you on this day—
You and your mother—as I fight this War.

I can’t believe that two whole years have passed
Since I last saw you, Jim! The photos show
You’re practically a man, you’ve grown so fast!
You’ve learned to ride a bike, to catch and throw—
And all without me there. So stay steadfast!
‘Cause you’re the kindest, bravest boy I know.

I’ve missed too many moments of your life:
The start of school, your laughter and your tears…
Please tell your Mom I also miss my wife!
I count the days till war in Europe clears.
But I must soldier on to stop the strife
Of tyranny’s dark curse of endless fears!

I’ve caught a bruise or two. A minor cut,
But—don’t tell Mom the salty words I write—
I’m ready to kick Hitler in the butt,
And force his Nazi pals to say “good night!”
That day comes close… Jim, I can’t share just what
My orders are. But know I’ll fight for right.

If I don’t make it home to you and Mom
There’s something that I need to say to you:
You’re watched by angels, Jim! Be strong, be calm.
I’d want you to begin your life anew.
Make friends, read books, find joy in every psalm.
Think for yourself and you’ll grow straight and true.

I’m proud of you, my son. I’ll always be.
But I must go now. Sure, I’m scared—but glad
To fight the Darkness so you can live free.
Remember me sometimes; please don’t be sad.
If death must come, I face it willingly.
Just know, Jim, that I’ll always love you. Dad.


Poet’s Note: The Allied invasion of occupied Normandy on D-Day – June 6, 1944 — was the largest seaborne invasion in history. Allied casualties on the first day were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. The operation laid the foundation for the defeat of Nazi Germany.



Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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25 Responses

  1. Cynthia Erlandson

    Oh, Brian, the words “poignant” and “beautiful” can’t even come close to describing your poem. This is a poem I would never be able to read aloud, because I would be sobbing before the first verse ended. I’m crying now, in fact — at the story and all the people it represents, and also at the thought that all of their sacrifices have now become so unappreciated (as also shown in Roy’s poem this morning) that we may lose the fight against tyranny after all. Thank you for this gem; may it’s message spread far and wide as we give thanks for our heroes.

    • Brian Yapko

      Cynthia, your kind words have so warmed my heart! Although I often get emotional when writing a poem it’s really rare for me to actually cry. But this poem practically wrote itself and when I got to the last line the tears flowed. For the same reason as you — all the people it represents and the sacrifices that they made — so many with their lives. My father was in the U.S. Army as part of the American occupation forces right after WWII so I heard stories that made me very proud to be American, very proud to be the son of a veteran, and very proud of the freedom and light the United States of America has brought to so much of the world. Few things will make me angrier than disrespect of our country and of our military.

  2. Joe Tessitore

    Cynthia and James are absolutely right – this is as poignant and as powerful as can be.
    Poetry at its best!

  3. Julian D. Woodruff

    Beautiful, Brian
    and of impact way beyond what any reader from 1944 would have suspected. Tears here, too!

  4. Sally Cook

    Brian – This is so authentic and underst5ated. Today we honor the finest generatioin of men. What they gave us can only be repaid by lkove of country.

    • Brian Yapko

      I wholeheartedly agree, Sally! As I mentioned to Cynthia, I have great pride in our country and our armed forces and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share that love of country with others.

  5. Jeff Eardley

    Brian, nothing short of excellent. A most moving narrative on this day. I have often visited the war cemetery of your countrymen at Omaha Beach and there must be many similar stories written on the stones there. Thank you.

  6. Peter Hartley

    Brian – I can only echo what everybody else has written.Moving, poignant and powerful, and the epistolary form gives the writing an immediacy which is compelling and maintains the verisimilitude. It might be true. Is it? I still have letters my grandfather wrote to his mother from Gallipoli and the Western Front in 1915-16, and this is as moving as they are.

    • Brian Yapko

      Thank you so much, Peter. I sometimes find that writing a poetic letter is the best way to understand the speaker, to let him speak for himself as it were. This particular father and son are fictitious but I imagine them representing so many true-life people like your grandfather. My premise was a letter to a son from a father who suspects that he is going to die — and probably does. This letter carries details that are obviously too sophisticated for a 6-year old… but the father writes them anyway with the foreknowledge that this child will keep this letter as a keepsake forever and read it again and again…

  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Brian, this heart-rending and beautiful poem is up there with all the great war poets who have touched my very soul with their words. This poem has the knack of bringing an immediacy to the horror of war with the tangible characters you’ve created… and “Dad” represents all the brave forefathers of many. His words are wise. I especially like: “Think for yourself and you’ll grow straight and true.” How that shines in this age of groupthink, shaming and canceling if one dares have an opinion of one’s own. And then there’s the ultimate wisdom and selflessness: “Sure, I’m scared—but glad/To fight the Darkness so you can live free.”… words I hold close to my heart.

    I always say to my son, the greatest gift is to know you are loved. In this age of division and derision, we need a bit of tough love… the sort of love that upholds the values our forefather’s fought for. Brian, your poem is an absolute privilege to read. Thank you!

    • Brian Yapko

      Susan, I’m so thrilled with your comment and that you liked my poem. You understand exactly what I was going for, to have the father represent so many who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. And, yes, the words “think for yourself…” were very deliberately embedded as a challenge to a generation of ungrateful and spoiled sheeple who are oblivious to their own laziness and cowardice. “Tough love…” there’s so much truth to what you say. My own father was a veteran from the U.S. Army occupation forces in post-war Germany and I know from his stories how important the values of the Allies in World War II were in bringing freedom to the world. That these values are now being trampled on and disrespected makes me both angry and worried for the future. Which, I suppose, is one of the reasons people like us have to write poetry — if nothing else to get this off our chests! And if it gets people thinking, all the better! Thank you again for your comment and for your own fantastic poem!

  8. Margaret Coats

    There’s a lot of waiting in military life, and this poetic letter gives an excellent picture of thoughts during waiting for one of the longest anticipated missions in history. It shows how thought naturally moves between the supreme value of the soldier’s duty, and the even deeper longing for those he loves. Thank you, Brian, for reminding us of the simple heroism of many men in the past. Theirs may have been the greatest generation, but every generation is faced anew with the need to recapture our ideals.

    • Brian Yapko

      Thank you for your insightful comment, Margaret! My goal was, indeed, to put the spotlight on one individual with the hope that the reader would realize he was only one of the over 16,000,000 Americans who served in the Armed Forces during World War II of whom 405,000 died (according to Wikipedia.) Every one of those heroes deserves to be remembered. I’m 100% with you on the need for this generation to recapture our ideals.

  9. C.B. Anderson

    Yeah, Brian, this one really tugs at the heart, principally because, as Sally Cook says, it is so understated. This poem is an example of those instances when it actually is better to show than to tell. You didn’t have to tell us how to feel, yet we felt it. Nice going.

    • Brian Yapko

      Thank you very much, C.B. “Understated” tends to be a challenge for me but I tried to stay true to the speaker’s character.

      • C.B. Anderson

        It appears that juridical skills can be successfully adapted to the writing of poetry, Brian, but I think the ability to understate must have come from somewhere else.

  10. Paul Freeman

    This was very moving, Brian.

    The immediacy of a letter and the rawness of emotion therein, as well as the possibility in the reader’s mind (left to the reader’s imagination) that the author didn’t come back, really worked did throw the reader into a turmoil.

    Well done.

  11. Tonia Kalouria

    Dear Brian,
    This is stunningly, profoundly touching. Like so many others, I, too, cried.
    I had recently found several 1944 letters from the battle areas to my grandmothers. They are written on tiny, free govt. airmail
    in about a 2 pt. — or less — hand. They, too, are very touching.

    • Brian Yapko

      Tonia, thank you so much for your kind words. How wonderful that you found those letters to your grandmother. Those are priceless bits of history. Everyone who served had a name and a life. Again, thank you.


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