Veterans Celebration at the Mad Batter

Veterans Celebration at the Mad Batter

It was a memorable evening at the Mad Batter Restaurant in Cape May, NJ, on the eve of Veterans Day 2016.  Hosted by the restaurant's owner, Mark Kulkowitz, in honor of his father, Harry, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, last night's dinner honoring veterans was at his expense.

Veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were there with their spouses and it was a special evening in many ways. It's hard to recapture in words the feelings of those assembled there, but there was a sense of comradeship that is only shared by those who have worn the uniform and, in one way or another, gone to war.

There were several speakers, but two stood out in particular. Johnnie Walker, who heads the Citizens/Veterans Advisory Committee (CVAC) in Cape May County, was passionate about the work being done by his organization to improve the lives of veterans. Those attending were generous in their support of CVAC last night.

But the star of the evening was Sergeant First Class Laurence Hogan, a Korean War veteran who fought in the bloodiest battle of that war on Pork Chop Hill. It was more than 30 years years after that battle that Hogan recalled the events of that struggle and wrote about it in a poem dedicated to "the Men of LOVE COMPANY, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry (Bayonet) Division." There were about 100 guests in the room that night and there was not a sound to be heard as the old veteran read the following poem. entitled "KOREA, The Dying Game."

The first six months were snow and cold and pain,

Some wins, some losses, always taking the high ground,

Another hill to gain,

This was the start lof the killing game,

And we who stayed to play this game quickly saw how swiftly,

THE ENDLESS DYING CAME . . .

New young players came to die,

In April, May, June and July,

All the while the wounded cry,

"GOD help us, we don't want to die"

BUT, THE DYING CAME

In sand, in dust, our tears like rust,

They tried to kill the best of us,

Brenson and Thompson both gained fame,

For they played hard, this killing game,

While assaulting the  hill, they lost the game,

And . . . THEIR DYING CAME . . .

In April's rains and monsoon flood,

Through thick and thin, through guts and blood,

and chow so bad, it tasted like mud,

96 men were on the hill,

AND FAST . . . THE DYING CAME . . .

May's wildflowers seem to fit,

Between the bunker, trenches and parapets,

Wild eyed men fighting, with flxed bayonets,

Some few us made a crazy bet,

How long could we hold the hill?

AND YET . .  . MORE  DYING CAME . . .

In June hot sweltering heat,

Shells fell like rain, round our feet,

Brains exploded, bodies drained,

Would we ever go home again?

Would all our efforts be in vain?

GOD . . . how we prayed, but still . . .

MUCH MORE  DYING CAME . . .

At last, at last, bitter sweet July,

The end was near, How time did fly . . .

Hang on, Keep the faith, You might get by,

BEFORE YOUR DYING CAME . . .

On those dog summer days of fight,

When Charlie's blaring bugles shrilled outright,

And flares and searchlights made day of night,

LOOK . . . Crawling, creeping, locust like,

We saw swarms of them . . . What  an awesome sight . . .

We would hold this hill . . . with all our might . . .

"FIX BAYONETS" was our battle cry . . .

TO MAKE THE LIVING DIE . . .

Again and again, with agony and pain . . .

Again, the worthless killing began . . . again,

AND . . . TOC-SAN DYING CAME . . .

To all the men of the 31st, who fought, and bled and died,

And to the 55 of you, who managed to survive . . .

In tribute to you men . . . both the young and old . . .

Who assaulted it . . . took it, secured it, and somehow lived to HOLD ,

YOUR . . . PORK CHOP HILL story is finally told.

AND THE KILLING STOPPED . . . JULY 27, 1953

. . . KOREA

SFC Hogan received a standing ovation.