CALUMET CITY | Thomas Crane has a purpose in the poetry he writes for veterans.
"I want them to know that I feel what they feel," Crane said. "I want to let these guys know that I have empathy for them. They aren't forgotten."
Crane is an 80-year-old veteran, poet and Calumet City resident. His poem "In Honor of the World War II Vets and Their Monument" will be read at the Veterans Day ceremony Monday at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Crane sent his poem to Jim Fisher, executive director of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, and Fisher asked if Crane would have it read. Crane won't be in attendance, though. He'll be watching on TV.
"It was just one of those lucky shots (to have my poem chosen)," Crane said.
The Korean War veteran was only 13 years old when World War II ended. But he has relatives and friends who did serve during the war, including a cousin who spent time in a German prisoner of war camp.
"We did have holdovers from the Second World War. I served (in Korea) with a number that saw action at Normandy and other places," Crane said. "It was part of the family for me. It was part of growing up."
The G.I. Bill afforded Crane the chance for an education. The native of Woodlawn took night school classes to earn a degree in education and worked for the University of Chicago until getting laid off in 1984. That gave him more time to dedicate to writing.
"Later in life I had time to spare to write and compose and to think," he said. "That's when it all happened."
Much, but not all, of his poetry is related to the military and veterans. Crane said there's a brotherhood among veterans, even those who didn't fight under an American flag. That's who he writes for and about. He's corresponded with other veterans from other wars and even other countries.
Crane's book of poetry "Green is the Valley, Blue are the Hills" can be purchased or read for free online at fethard.com/crane.
"Writing is a matter between the heart and the soul," Crane said. "You really have to feel it."