Thursday, November 8, 2012


    As November arrives so does the annual flood of reprint requests for my father’s poem, JUST A COMMON SOLDIER (A Soldier Died Today). 2012 marks the 25 Anniversary of this poem’s original publication.          

     A. Lawrence Vaincourt was a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran of WW II, who spent his later years writing a popular Quebec-based column. Rushing to meet a deadline for his 1987 Remembrance Day edition, he composed the words that would go on to become his defining work. His poem was published then relegated to his ever-expanding collection of scrapbooks.

     A few years later, Ann Landers (who had contributed a blurb for the back cover of my father’s first book) reprinted a portion of his poem in her syndicated column; that’s when the floodgates opened.  We started receiving requests to reprint from all over the world.  Our website received so many hits that year, it crashed the server. These requests have grown with each passing year and to date the poem has been reprinted in publications throughout Canada, the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and Singapore.

     For years the poem has been broadcast nationally every Memorial Day on U.S. radio. The American Legion has posted it throughout their many branches, the Australian Legion included it in their video tribute, “Victory in the Pacific,” and it was a central part of the 2009 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.  In 2008 it was carved into marble for an American Veteran’s Memorial.

     It has appeared in thousands of newspapers, magazines and websites around the world. A composer and writer myself, I used it as a central part of “Born Lucky,” a stage musical I wrote and toured in 2008-09.     

     Most movingly it has served as a eulogy at hundreds of funerals over the years, including my father’s own in 2009.  Although we miss him terribly, what greater gift could he have left his family than the knowledge that his poem, the words of a Canadian veteran, live on and continue to inspire people around the world.

(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 honour 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