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Daily Lyric: I TOO WAS THERE

I was there, I fought and I died there

I bled and I cried there, I too was there.

I was there, I won and I lost there

Paid the ultimate cost there, I too was there.


I was there, all the way back at the very start

In the earliest of the colonies, I too played a part

With my life, my fortune, and my honor I served

Helping create and defend this brave and free new world.

I fought in the revolution, to throw the yoke of King George

I crossed the Delaware and I froze at Valley Forge

At the lowest point, in a dark December night

I gave hope to my general with my lone dedication light.


I was there, I fought and stayed alive there

I suffered but survived there, I too was there.

I was there, it was mine to fight for

To shine the light for, I too was there.


In the rematch of 1812, I was also there

With the defenders of Baltimore under the rockets’ red glare

I carried ammo to Andy J. in the thick of New Orleans

I sailing-mastered in the Channel and privateered in the Caribbean.

I was at the Alamo right there at Jim Bowie’s side

Some say I escaped but I was also among those who died

I was the Fighting Doctor at Chapultepec castle

Stepping up to lead the troops when our commander fell in battle.


I was there, I fought and I died there …


I fought on both sides, with the blue and the gray

I saw my brother through my sights and I threw my gun away

With rifle, pen, and telegraph I served my country with pride

I stood by my president and was his link to the world outside.

I was aboard the Maine, at Santiago, at San Juan Hill

First to volunteer, first to reach the top—first to be killed

I charged up that hill and I stormed the position

Riding rough with Teddy, in revenge for the Inquisition.


I was there, I fought and stayed alive there …

I went ‘over there’ in 1917 with Black Jack to fight the Huns

A quarter million strong, for liberty, Yankee Yankels get your guns

I had escaped the Russian Empire to avoid conscription by the czar

But for my adopted homeland I was proud to wear the star.

A generation later I went back to Europe, and to the Pacific as well

More than half a million strong this time, to extinguish the fires of hell

I stormed the beaches, hopped the islands, and battled through bulges and swamps

And I liberated those left of my brutalized brethren from the horrors of the camps.


I was there, I fought and I died there …


And then war turned cold, but I continued to serve

Facing down the Communists in a protracted war of nerves

And when it turned hot, as it did in Korea and Vietnam

I went through it just the same as my fellow fighting man.

I was shot down flying a mission over the enemy zone

Five years a guest at the Hanoi Hilton before I made it home

But for all of us fortunate to get back safe and sound

Let’s take time to remember those who’ll never be found.


I was there, I fought and stayed alive there …


I went to the desert for shield, storm, and freedom

What irony to return again to the land of the Chaldean

I stood in the gates of Babylon and felt the weight of my history

I was gathered unto my people before any hope of victory.

I was as stunned and shocked as anyone when I saw the towers fall

I rallied to the flag to heed my nation’s call

To fight terror and tyranny, the choice to me was clear

And so long as my country needs me, I’ll continue to volunteer.


I was there, I fought and I died there …


People seem to always forget who I really am

I’m a lion of Judah, a child of Abraham

I am Gideon’s sword, David’s sling, Solomon’s mighty warrior

I am a man of Mordechai, a Maccabee, a Masada martyr

I am Bar Kochba’s rebel, I’m the grandmaster of Abir

There was a time I was regarded with both respect and fear

2000 years of exile may have trampled but didn’t trounce me

The world may not like when I fight but they’d do best to not discount me.


I was there, I fought and stayed alive there …

And yet some folks keep saying things about me that I don’t deserve

They make up all kinds of stories that I somehow didn’t serve

These are just extensions of the web of lies they weave

The facts bear out the opposite of what they’d have us all believe.

Well, don’t let the bigots bear their poison message of hate

I was there, everywhere, and with all I shared the fate

And I’ll keep being there, till the day the bloodshed will cease

With swords beat into plowshares, and we all will win the peace.


I was there, I fought and I died there

I bled and I cried there, I too was there.

I was there, I won and I lost there

Paid the ultimate cost there, I too was there.

I was there, I fought and stayed alive there

I suffered but survived there, I too was there.

I was there, it was mine to fight for

To shine the light for, I too was there.


©2024 The Hesh Inc.

"We Were There Too" - AI art by The Hesh Inc.
We were there too.

I make a point of mentioning this every Memorial Day in social-media posts: WE WERE THERE TOO. All too often, there have been self-important, bigoted, false 'patriots' that spread the falsehood that "Jews don't fight, Jews don't serve." (This canard was the impetus for the formation of the Jewish War Veterans organization in the late 19th century.) The history, records, and statistics prove that Jewish soldiers have fought and died in every US war, from the Revolution all the way to Afghanistan. Remember the ultimate sacrifice made by all these soldiers, and all the soldiers of every faith and background, in defense of the freedoms that Americans all too often take for granted.


I began writing these lyrics when I was living in Philadelphia during the latter half of the 1990s. I had been an aficionado of American history since childhood, and I spent many an afternoon touring the various historical sites in the city. One afternoon, as I sat in the park at Penns Landing overlooking the Delaware River, I thought of the parts that my people played in that history; it is easy to remember figures who had been in finance and government, but not that easy to remember that Jews were among the soldiers who took part in the fighting. As a former soldier myself (albeit in Israel), this aspect of history touched me personally, and I felt that I wanted to write something about it to declare it to a country and a world that may not be (or want to be) aware of it. The original core of the lyrics languished from the day I started them until I began revisiting them in March of this year and ultimately completed them—today, Memorial Day, May 29, 2023.


Musically, the length of the song might seem to make it another "epic" in my usual style, but the repetitiveness would lend itself to a more folksong-like quality. I imagine the rhythm being kept by a martial drumbeat played by a fife-and-drum corps, overlaid by "Jewish-sounding" music in a minor key.

---

Sources

Aish

Algemeiner.com

Center for Jewish History

JewishBoston.com

Jewish Virtual Library

Jewish War Veterans of the USA

Moment magazine

National Museum of American Jewish Military History

National World War I Museum

National World War II Museum

PBS.org

Times of Israel

US National Archives and Records Administration

VeteranTribute.org

World Over magazine (New York Board of Jewish Education)

... and personal anecdote.

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