THE LAST RIDGE - The Inspiring Story of the 10th Mountain Division, A Compelling PBS Documentary Based on the Book by McKay Jenkins
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A Poem by Deborah Evans Clem (Evans C-85):

To the Soldiers of the 10th Mountain

Dedica ai soldati della 10th Mountain Division

From your Descendants
In Honor and Memoriam.

Riva, Belvedere, Gorgolesco, della Torraccia, Monte della Spe.
Where were you in our dreams?
So long ago, so unknown, so forgotten,
mountains that as children we did not, could not, know.

Yet these days, returning to Italy with our fathers,
we have come to know these mountains
such as Monte della Spe
-the mountain of hope-
while climbing through dense chestnut groves,
where our fathers climbed and fought
and maybe caught an hour of sleep, sixty years ago.

O, say can you see by the dawn¹s early light,
the shells bursting in air o¹er the valley, the woods,
where we ponder foxholes littered with rusty ration cans
where a quick cold dinner was gulped
in the wake of a battle;
as we travel the winding roads through the hills
whose towns have become
etched in our communal memory,
memorizing the silhouettes of Riva and Belvedere,
carrying them home in inward visions
of past and present welded with welcoming smiles of eternally grateful
Italiani whose fathers, mothers, sons and daughters also were caduti.

Exploring the hills, we find the new tree shoots,
Progeny of the last generation, as are we,
Full grown now, crowded in a ring around the parent trees, blasted stumps,
That were cut down by enemy fire,
yet whose branches were gratefully spread over foxholes
and trenches to protect the troopers, our dads,
from the enemies¹ fire,
fathers and trees KIA,
our dads but boys thrown into shell-felled chestnuts in a foreign land
which for some became a grave;
man¹s love of freedom explains the reason why
but does not ease the pain.

Land of the free, home of the brave: Italy.
We hold these truths to be self evident, We Americans,
that all men
all men
all men
are created equal
and equally endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights:
Freedom, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
And the pursuit of joy and peace.
There can be no peace without freedom, the Italians remind us.
And we try to learn the lesson again,
we so blessed in our own land¹s freedom
that we have forgotten.
In Italy, we remember.

Neither is there beauty without freedom and peace.
La luceŠ the light.
Le montagneŠ the mountains.
Today the light rises over these verdant hills where also grow the wheat and vine, potato and artichoke and where
up the red roofs wisteria, honeysuckle, and roses climb.
Dawn¹s luminescence bathes the rocks and formidable cliffs once ascended in battle,
in the deep of night
-then the dark, cliff and ice were allies.
Today we ascend in the light of day, a gentler ascent.

The years pass and these same cliffs embrace a softly clouded sky in peace.
This hilltop world is no longer in the black and white of war,
but of riotous beauteous color, and
Buona Giornata, rather than the deafening din of bombs, rings in the town squares of
Castel d¹Aiano, Gaggio Montano, Querciola, and Lizzano.

We, children of the 10th, are surprised to find ourselves also embraced as amico del cuore,
by the townspeople,
and loved because of battles fought by our fathers and comrades fallen
long ago
-on second thought, not so very long ago-
-only a couple generations-
a history only as many years as we are old,
for we children who were born just after the war,
come now to join the towns¹ parades
with our children.

In the village squares, we sing and dance
and wine and dine on pasta, pizza, and polenta
With the grandparents who remember,
And the parents and school children who hold fast to that memory.
Bruno¹s trumpet accompanies
the Alpini in their songs
and the old soldiers who remember the words
sing too of their beloved mountains,
and women and wine.

Too soon - il viaggio e finito,
The journey is over,
and we are flying home to our native land
of the free,
to tell new stories of the mountains of Italy
to those at home
Lest they forget
fathers and adopted fathers,
grandfathers and adopted grandfathers,
and the fallen ones who never awakened for revelry.

With chestnuts and shrapnel in our pockets,
And Italian friendships fast in our hearts,
we return home
and the World War II mountain battles dim
in our memories,
the hill towns fade in the distance,
And new battles rage in our present.
Yet, listenŠ
Over the peaceful Apennine hills,
the trumpet sounds Silenzio.
and the hills weep,
silent tears falling on
a stand of bright blue iris
consecrating Belvedere.

Sleep well,
And we, the living,
live well,
Sempre avanti,
always forward,
because of you,
and ­especially-
per voi,
for you.

Thursday, 29 May 2003
Revised, 6 July 2006
Boulder, Colorado
By Deborah Evans Clem (Evans C-85)

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Outreach, Promotion and Development for The Last Ridge have been made possible by the R.C. Baker Foundation, honoring the extraordinary legacy of World War II veterans.