» With Veterans Day approaching, Marine veteran Doug Benson of Omaha told of a recent visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial — and a poem that touched him deeply.
It was written by Kristi McGrath of Omaha, and titled “Warrior of Vietnam.” Kristi, 27, a Desert Dome mammal keeper at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, wrote it several years ago for a class.
She and her parents, Larry and Lois McGrath of Fairbury, Neb., met Doug and his wife, Joann, on the mid-October bus trip to Washington, D.C. When Doug shared memories of his two tours in Vietnam, she said, she showed him her poem.
“Surrounded by crimson and Satan / My comrades fall to the ground / We were sent here to fight for freedom / But brotherhood is what we found.”
That's how it concludes. You can read the entire poem at the end of this column. Because it is written as if by a soldier, it reminded me of the haunting World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.”
This was Kristi's first trip to the nation's capital, and the Vietnam Wall was memorable for her — as was meeting Doug, a Union Pacific retiree.
“He was kind enough to open up to me and told me a bit about what happened,” she said. “It was very moving that he shared what men went through.”
She has no relatives who served in Vietnam, but her late grandfather fought in the Korean War. She doesn't recall his ever talking about it.
» When Joan Squires was awakened by a phone call at 3:20 a.m. last Saturday about a car crash into the Holland Performing Arts Center, she needed only to look out her window at home to see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles.
Squires, president of Omaha Performing Arts, works at the Holland Center, 13th and Douglas Streets — and lives just across Gene Leahy Mall at the Paxton condominiums, 14th and Farnam Streets. She quickly got dressed and inspected the damage.
A 21-year-old man's sport utility vehicle had careened through the glass exterior of the Holland and came to rest against a stairwell. He was ticketed for driving under the influence and running a red light.
Joan said she was just glad there were no serious injuries. A temporary wall was installed, and the show went on — a symphonic tribute that night to the Doors.
Wags soon asked if the Holland Center were opening a new drive-in theater. And if the driver missed the Doors — or just the door?
» Longtime Omaha jazz pianist Buddy Graves will celebrate his second annual 90th birthday Friday at the place where you'll find him most Friday nights — hosting a jazz jam at the Touch of Class Lounge, 11220 Fort St.
OK, it's actually his 91st birthday, but the rhythms and sounds will be smooth and cool as always.
Buddy has entertained folks for a long time. In the late 1930s, he and his first wife danced on the Orpheum Circuit as “Buddy and Betty — Tops in Taps.” After World War II, he took classical music lessons under the GI Bill.
In the 1950s he played at the Blue Room at 24th and Lake Streets, and says he got to meet Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich and others. For decades, Buddy has continued entertaining fans and jamming with musicians in Omaha.
» The winner of $63,200 on “Wheel of Fortune” recently was Adam Kelly, who lived in Omaha for four years and married Mandy Miller, now a dentist at the Pentagon and a captain in the Air Force.
Mandy, daughter of Rick and Carol Miller, is a 2000 graduate of Marian High. She earned degrees from Memphis University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Adam, from Nashville, Tenn., worked for the Omaha Royals and now is a property manager. He taped “Wheel” in June but was sworn to secrecy until the show aired Oct. 16.
» Joe Brogie of Omaha blew me away when I saw him perform his “mentalism and magic” act a couple of months ago.
He will dazzle a crowd at a 7 p.m. Sunday event at Papillion-La Vista High School, a fundraiser staged by the student group DECA. Tiana Kelly, a senior, said admission is $5 and proceeds will go to a nonprofit group that helps people suffering from depression.
Joe, 24, started doing magic at 8 and has performed professionally since he was a student at Columbus Lakeview High School.
The holder of two black belts in martial arts, he graduated from Wayne State College with a degree in biology and now works full time as an entertainer — spicing his Kreskin-like act with humor, clever patter and “mind-reading.” You can learn more about him at www.joebrogielive.com.
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Warrior of Vietnam
By Kristi McGrath
Within the clouds we had power
Whirling wind was our shield
But once the great hawk landed
We were defenseless upon the field
Through the daylight we were winning
Then night fell upon the sky
Our tactic was silence in the grass
Yet, one by one we die
A bullet slashes my skin
Tearing my very soul
I dive from my worst fear; death
My enemies bestow
Surrounded by crimson and Satan
My comrades fall to the ground
We were sent here to fight for freedom
But brotherhood is what we found.
In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.