WWII vet's poem brings battlefield friendship to life

"In memory of a soldier, I write, of a buddy who died in the fight;

For the freedom of speech and the freedom of fear, and the future happiness of everything dear ..."

The first stanza of a poem written by a long-dead American soldier has been given new life through a chance discovery by a relative of the one who he penned the lines more than six decades earlier.

Kim Osborne, a clerk with the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority, found the poem written by her late great-uncle, Carson Allen Woodruff. It is entitled "In Memory Of My Buddy."

Woodruff, a World War II veteran, wrote the poem on Jan. 9, 1944, memorializing Donald P. Watson, a member of his military unit, who fought beside him in Italy.

The rest of the poem reads:

"Twas on Mount Casino, where we fought so long, while the Jerries were dug in, and numbers very strong; The battle was tough and the bullets whined by, and one caught Don in the thigh.

"This didn't stop him from throwing lead, but finally he died from a shot in the head;

He fought hard and with all of his skill, it took guys like him to get that hill.

He was honest and clean and in every way swell; he was a true friend and I loved him so well;

"I treasure the memories I hold so dear, his smiles and often words of good cheer;

If God has answered my every prayer, He has with Him a great solider there."

Watson was killed in action in November 1943, said Osborne. She said Woodruff, who was born Jan. 18, 1924, in Mobile, Ala., was killed in action in Nettuna, Italy, on Feb. 17,1944, a month after writing the poem.

"He was a very young man when he was lost, himself," said Mike Pennington, Osborne's father.

Osborne said she found the poem three years ago after the death of her grandmother. After discovering it, she wanted to share it with others. "It was a neat poem, and it touched my heart," she said.

"[He] was her youngest brother," continued Osborne. "When she passed away, someone gave me all her family's papers."

What makes the poem more significant for her, Osborne said, is because it is part of her personal family history.

"I have been interested in genealogy since a teenager," added Osborne. "I came to have that because of my interest in [it]."

Pennington said others in the family also have an interest in studying their historical roots.

"I kind of knew about it [the poem] for years," said Pennington. "My wife has been heavy into genealogy for years."

Woodruff's poem has been incorporated in the family tree, added Pennington.

Osborne said she hopes to find any surviving members of Watson's family, to share the poem with them, but that may not be possible.

"They shipped out from different places, and there's no telling where that young man's family is," she said.