The Tattoo

The Tattoo


John’s car was missing badly, as it limped into the station.
The mechanic he had talked to there, surveyed the situation.
Your fuel pump has a leak sir, it should be changed without delay…
The leaking fuel could start a fire… while you were underway.


I could order what is needed, from the auto store in town.
But until I get that done… you’ll have to hang around.
John agreed… lets order now… this delay has made me late.
I guess I have no choice in this, I’ll just have to wait.


The gray haired man just nodded, and motioned to a chair.
John heard him say, take a seat… you can rest right there.
With that the man picked up a wrench, and walking to the car…
Said; good thing you made it in here son, this couldn’t have gone far.


Eventually the part came in, and then repairs began.
Methodically in order… by this quiet graying man.
John now felt that in a while he could drive away,
Grateful that he found someone… to fix his car today.


As John sat waiting near the door, he saw pictures on the wall…
One of the the mechanic, and another guy quite tall.
Both of them were smiling, wearing dog tags and drab “tee’s”
Wading through a mass of mud… clear up to their knees.


Now and then John would glance, at where the old guy stood…
Working at a steady pace… stooped beneath the hood.
I’ll have this pump connected sir, in just a little while.
With that the gray mechanic… gave a nod… and gentle smile.


The metallic sound awoke John, he realized that he’d been dozing.
The noise he heard, was when the hood latch… fastened upon closing.
John realized that he had “dozed”..napping.. head against the wall.
As he stood up, the old guy entered… walking thru the hall.


Quietly the man prepared the bill for John’s repairs.
John could read it upside down… no need here for despairs.
The man when finished placed the paper down where John could see.
This bill just covers parts I’ve used… the short nap was for free.


As the man had moved his arms, a tattoo caught John’s eyes.
The message there forevermore… to John was no surprise.
John paid the bill, and reached out to shake the old guys hand…
I would like to thank “you” Sir, for fighting for our land.


The tattoo, partly visible, peeking out beneath his sleeve…
Faded now years had passed.. John was turning now to leave.
“SEMPER FI” the tattooed words, scrolled in bold block print.
It was easy to read there, John didn’t have to squint.


I see you were in service Sir, Marines it seems to me.
That’s right young man… Marine’s it is, and always I will be.
I got this “tat” at seventeen, and my buddy got the same.
That’s him in the picture there… Scotty was his name.


He and I grew up together, right here in this small town.
When war broke out, we both signed up… his daddy drove us down.
We had hard weeks of training… then they put us on a boat.
With all the men it carried then, we hoped it still would float.


After many days at sea, we arrived just off the coast.
We didn’t know still where we were, or which country was our host.
IWO JIMA ..the islands name.. I’ll remember all my days.
We could barely see the island… through the misty haze.


Orders were that in the dawn, all troops would “hit the beach”.
The bombs that went before us, not a spot they didn’t reach.
We witnessed smoke and fire exploding… not a spot was spared.
It seemed the island was on fire… still there was reason to be scared.


They strafed and bombed that island, till there was no spot unmarked.
They tried to crush the enemy, before our troops embarked.
We had to claim this island, to move forward with the war.
By being here we were much closer… Japan wasn’t very far.


When morning came, we crawled down nets… into the landing boat.
From both sides ..we crowded in.. a slight tightening in my throat.
Scotty looked at me and winked, a strange look on his face.
Then he said “Hey pard ..I’ve got a feeling.. I won’t leave this place”.


Don’t talk like that ..just stick with me.. we’ll get through this together.
There ain’t nothing we can’t whip, or storm that we can’t weather.
All hell broke loose before we landed… bullets fired from every side.
When we hit the beach we found… there was “nowhere” we could hide.


A crater from a bursted shell… before us in the beach,
Was the only shelter… we could find or reach.
We dove headfirst into the hole… firing as we went.
Hearing thuds of bullets, in the sand as they were spent.


Eventually we fought our way, across that beach of sand…
Only to find more of it, now mixed with rocks and land.
We spent the day just trying to fight back and stay alive.
We knew we all had to advance, if we hoped to survive.


Days of non stop fighting, more fierce than those before…
Gaining ground in inches… the guns a constant roar.
Thirty seven days it took, before we won that fight.
Thousands of Marines were killed… one on that last night.


Scotty and me were in a foxhole sharing our canteen.
He had just remarked to me, “beats all I’ve ever seen.
For five weeks now we’ve crawled through black sand.
I’d like to see… some grass growing land.”


He scarcely finished speaking… a force snapped back his head.
I instantly knew what happened… my friend Scott was dead.
I can’t forget those words he spoke… my mind just can’t erase…
Prophetically he spoke that day…  He died in that place.


We took that shot on bivouac, right after two days rain.
He was looking at the picture… I could almost feel his pain.
Scotty never made it back… I could have stayed as well.
Why that sniper shot at “him”, Only GOD can tell.


Well my friend, it’s time to close this business for today.
Here’s your receipt, and your change… You best be on your way.
I thank you for your business, I appreciate your trade.
I hope that you still make connections, even though delayed.


John watched the man turn out the lights as he drove from his drive.
Extinguishing each one in turn… the last light to survive…
“SCOTTY’S”… spelled in straight bold letters emblazoned in the night.
John understood this lifelong tribute…  always would burn bright.



©CC May 24, 2009


There is no sum that I could name, that could truly pay our debt…
For what those brave men gave for us, and some still endure yet.

The sacrifices that were made for us, Our freedoms of today…
Should “never”be considered small… the price they had to pay.

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