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Who's Going to Pipe for the Piper? by Gary Lillie

We buried Jim the other day
under skies that mirrored heads turned gray
Twenty-some brothers and a sister showed
with pipes and rifles for a flag's last fold
Now, who's going to pipe for the piper?

The piper led us in a slow half-step
with a chief's lament, at our request
The flags were lowered to half-staff place
then the piper played ‘Amazing Grace”
So, who's going to pipe for the piper?

Jim's widow was there to accept the flag
presented with love and a nation's thanks
His family, friends and the chaplain asked
our God to welcome Jim home, at last
But, who's going to pipe for the piper?

Our days progress to DEROS II
the short-timer’s stick has notched a few
That Freedom Bird's last flight will come
and this brotherhood inevitably done
Then, who's going to pipe for the piper?

Aye, the piper's pipes are blowing thin
and energy fades like a wispy wind
But the saga of what was done back then
must never be left to baseless men
Will you not pipe for the piper?

If we don't affirm our love for our own
by telling the world what was truly done
Then the kin of the kin that we once knew
will lose their dower to the unworthy few
And no one will pipe for the piper.

In loving memory of our 310 brother Jim Shake

 


Definitions from Who's Going to Pipe for the Piper?

(for those who weren’t there)

 DEROS - Military terminology. Date of Expected Return from Overseas Service.

DEROS II - Coined term meaning the end of our ‘tour of duty’ on earth.

Short-timers’ stick - You were a ‘short-timer’ when your tour got below a certain number of days before you went home. Different branches of the service had their own traditions evolve for personnel to show, for all others to see, that they were short-timers. Being a Short-timer was something to be proud of and gloat over, something to flaunt. In many units, the short-timer carried a short-timer’s stick with the days remaining marked on it. Some of them were very creative in appearance. Each morning one of the days on the stick was notched off. When the last one was notched off, it was time to go home. The way the term is used here is there are only so many Vietnam vets and each time one dies another notch is cut in the great short-timer’s stick. This is a ‘short-time’ event in history. When the last Vietnam Vet dies, our ‘short-timers stick’ is completed.

Freedom Bird - GI slang for the airplanes that flew us home from Vietnam.

The phrase ‘welcome home, at last’ - refers to the fact that we didn't receive a welcome home in the USA. “Welcome  Home” is how Vietnam Veterans greet each other.