Robert Kohler, a 90-year-old Korean War veteran, is no stranger to honoring military heroes.
He’s an avid long-distance runner who regularly carries a large American flag in each hand during races, including this year’s virtual 2020 Dana Point Turkey Trot.
After picking up distance-running in the mid-1980s, Kohler has since run enough miles to circle the globe. He completed many of those races while carrying flags in honor of the nation’s military veterans.
The Irvine local is active at the St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Irvine.
“I will read a poem that I read in 2010 when we moved from an old location. Four stanzas of Just a Common Soldier,” he told The Epoch Times.
The poem was written by newspaper columnist and Canadian military veteran Lawrence Vaincourt in 1987. It has since been read in tribute by former military servicemen throughout the world.
Kohler, the leader of his parish’s veterans’ ministry, will also be honoring fellow veterans who have recently passed or were killed in action.
“I do this every Memorial Day where I show pictures of our deceased parish veterans,” Kohler said. “I have 53 this year.”
“I started out with nine in 2011. Our parish is unique in that one of our young men was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012.”
U.S Army Private First-Class Cale C. Miller, 23, was killed in action during Operation Enduring Freedom on May 12, 2012.
“He is among the dead I will be talking about.” Kohler said. “I hope I can hold my emotions in check when I show this picture of the boy who was killed.”
Those attending the service in person service at 51 Marketplace in Irvine are requested to observe the current COVID-19 protocols. A livestream of the event will be available on the church’s Facebook page at 10 a.m.
“[It’s] a special event at my Catholic parish here in Irvine.” Kohler shared. “Someone’s gotta do it.”
About Just A Common Soldier
Just A Common Soldier, also known as A Soldier Died Today, is one of the most popular poems on the Internet. Written and published in 1987 by Canadian veteran and columnist A. Lawrence Vaincourt, it now appears in numerous anthologies, on thousands of websites and on July 4, 2008 it was carved into a marble monument at West Point, New York. This year marks the poem’s 25th anniversary. Please enjoy this tribute to the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen who have given so much for our country.
JUST A COMMON SOLDIER
(A Soldier Died Today)
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.
© 1987 A. Lawrence Vaincourt