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Seeking Bethlehem

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Below is the poem entitled Seeking Bethlehem which was written by poet Bob Quigley. Please feel free to comment on this poem. However, please remember, PoetrySoup is a place of encouragement and growth.

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Seeking Bethlehem

The conductor stopped by my seat and advised me that we would soon be entering the Philadelphia rail-yards where the baggage car would be added to another train.  He would advise the engineer to have it opened so I could enter.

I thanked him and walked to the end of the car, stepping out onto the platform.  When the train came to a stop, I stepped down and walked along the tracks until I reached the baggage car.  I was met there by a brakeman who opened the car and allowed me entrance.

Soon I felt a jolt, and the car began moving on it's own through the yard until, it slowed and connected with another string of cars.  I jumped down and waited until the brakeman had again secured the car door, assuring that my cargo would not be removed accidentally.

In a few hours, we arrived at Bethlehem Pa, and I repeated the process.  This time however, I waited and observed as the flag draped casket was removed and placed in a waiting hearse.

I was eighteen and had been an airman for less then a year.  We were not at war, and I was safely stationed in Maine.  But this was a friend.  A fellow airman who had died in an automobile accident.  His wife had asked for a military escort home, and that was my job, made harder by the fact I knew them both so well.

The hearse carried the body to his hometown, a little mining town about an hour away.  I met the family and they offered me a place to stay, continuously questioning me about their son and his demise, trying to make some sense of his loss.

The following day, he was laid to rest in a military funeral.  A reverend spoke, a salute was fired, and taps was played.  His sister threw herself on the casket, sobbing uncontrollably.  The honor guard tri-folded the flag and gave it to me to present to his mother, who wept silently.

  To this day, I still relive the emotion of that moment. I think of the extreme hurt and sorrow experienced by the families of our young men and women who come home to say goodbye.  The circumstances change, but the result is always the same.  And it never hurts any less.

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  1. Date: 5/7/2012 5:13:00 PM
    Howdy Bob! First of all thank you for serving this great country! You are royalty to me...The title led me to think that you were writing of a "religious" experience...after slowly reading through this twice, I think this was probably one of the most spiritual moments of your life...You are a great individual and the best escort this airman could have ever had! Thoroughly enjoyed reading of this heart-wrenching few days in your life! Love, Gwendolen

    Quigley Avatar Bob Quigley
    Date: 5/7/2012 10:15:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Thank you Gwen. Your heartfelt words are very much appreciated.
  1. Date: 5/7/2012 8:48:00 AM
    Such an honor to serve as an escort. A very moving prose poem.

    Quigley Avatar Bob Quigley
    Date: 5/7/2012 8:57:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Thank you Joann
  1. Date: 5/6/2012 11:15:00 AM
    Bob, a very moving tender story..David

    Quigley Avatar Bob Quigley
    Date: 5/7/2012 8:57:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Appreciate it David