A few years ago on the 50th anniversary of his death, I wrote a poem for my best friend in the service. We'd trained together at places like the Smokey Hill Air Base, in Salina, Kansas, named for the Smokey Hill River

When we were made instructors, I volunteered for overseas duty and was transferred to the 486th. He went over late in the war, to Italy, plane was thought sabotaged, lost two port engines and controls on takeoff with a full bomb load. The poem is written for him, but I think many of us feel the same way about others.

-Robert Bloch, 832nd

For Stanley "Shadrack" Peter Chodacki,
My Friend
Fifty years ago, just yesterday,
In a war-torn land, more than miles away,
I lost a friend.
His great silver bird refused to soar,
Perhaps, too, weary of the war,
It reached its end.

Not enough to be the best,
To be one step beyond the rest,
Of course, he knew
Down deep beneath his carefree stance,
There was, potentially, that chance
Each time he flew.

That his bird's skipper was superb,
With skill for which there is no verb,
And that he cared
For bombardier and gunners all,
Was not enough when angels call,
But he had dared.

In memory still, he's twenty-two
While I, alone, much older grew,
Older and sad.
Across the gulf of fifty years,
Salty, with shed and unshed tears,
I miss you, Shad.

As I now, too, approach the end,
Feeling so wistful for my friend,
Ponder if and when,
Somewhere beyond this earthly life,
Beyond the realm of mortal strife,
We'll meet again.

Can we fish again the Smokey Hill,
Drifting along in the sunlit still,
Catching but tan?
Can we travel the highways, once again,
That we travelled once, as such young men?
I hope we can.

So, old/young friend, I think of you,
When I see that bird up in the blue
And lonely sky,
And I whisper to the heavenly powers,
The prayer, that friendship such as ours,
Will never die.

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