Tag: Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2017

War Dead Honored On Memorial Day Weekend

I just recently read Eugene Sledge’s memoir “With the Old Breed”. It’s not a new book but it comes with my strongest recommendation. It covers the oft-overlooked horror that was Peleliu and Okinawa. What crossed me reading it was the omnipresence of death — not just people dying but their bodies remaining on the battlefield due to intense enemy fire and horrible weather making retrieval impossible. Sledge survived without even a wound. But so many thousands saw their stories come to an end there, in the mire and blood.

Memorial Day

Just a reminder of why today is a holiday. It’s not to barbecue:

Over a million men and women have sacrificed their lives to keep this nation free. Take some time off today to acknowledge the sacrifice they made for you, for me, for everyone. There are children who will never see their fathers again, parents who will never see their children again, parts of families and communities ripped out, never to be replaced.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

-Laurence Binyon, Ode of Remembrance

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

-Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

On Memorial Day, we honor those who have fallen in defense of our nation. But for all those who fell and were buried on battlefields, many more died in training, of disease or starvation, in hospitals and ambulances. And many more come back with wounds — both physical and mental — that eventually claim them. General Joshua Chamberlain is thought to have died of lingering wartime wounds at 85 (and I believe it; it would have taken more than old age to kill Chamberlain).

Every day, soldiers die from wounds taken in our wars over the last century. But no wound is more pervasive and heart-rending that the mental ones we cannot see. Every day, 20 veterans take their own lives and about one active soldier does. The time to honor the living is Veteran’s Day. But those who die because of the horrors they have witnessed and the wounds inflicted on their souls and minds are honored no less than those who fell by a bullet at Normandy.

Memorial Day

I thought I’d repost this from the archive:

We came across a lad from A company. He was ripped open from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel and lying in a pool of blood. When we got to him, he said: ‘Shoot me’. He was beyond human help and, before we could draw a revolver, he was dead. And the final word he uttered was ‘Mother.’ I remember that lad in particular. It’s an image that has haunted me all my life, seared into my mind.

-Harry Patch, The Last Fighting Tommy

No one wants to die. However gung-ho they may be, the instinct to survive is ingrained into our very DNA. It is a will so strong it can bring the near-terminally ill back from the edge of darkness. The success of any military depends on this—upon the willingness to kill rather than die. The men who struggled up the beaches of Normandy and through the fields of Gettysburg knew that their only chance of survival was in defeating the enemy. But to march into the fire meant being willing to die regardless of your desire to live. The willingness to sacrifice oneself means overcoming billions of years of evolution. Animals may do this for their young; only humans can do it for a cause, for a nation and for people they have never met.

I hope that during your drinking and barbecuing yesterday, you took a moment to remember what the day was for. The men who fell in our names would not mind the drinking and eating that happens on their day; they would doubtless wish they were there. Perhaps there is no better way of honoring the dead than to enjoy the life they have given us. But we should never forget that they are out there—silent, sleeping, shielding us even in death.

One thing we have learned is that not all of those who fall do so on the battlefield. Some carry wounds that eventually claim them: Lawrence Chamberlain lived to be 85, volunteered for more wars, became governor — all while enduring pain from his war wounds and eventually dying from them. Others carry their wounds inside: the haunting memories and searing trauma that drive so many to take their own lives or to bury their pasts in drink or drugs. All around us today are those who are slowly dying from the wounds they took for us, the soul-scaring terror they endured for us, the eyes of those they had to kill for us. Come some Memorial Day, we will be remembering them too.

Don’t Feed The Animals

Yesterday, while remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice, we also remembered that in a free society we must tolerate those that sacrifice good taste.

Nice little play pen they got there, what, no sandbox? And with only 3 females(?) present, at least they won’t breed.

The KKK confronting the Westboro haters, I guess the local chapter of the nazi party was at a Bar Mitzvah. When even the semi looney groups think you are “out there”, it might be time to recalibrate your beliefs.

I like how the local police cordoned off the fringe groups into manageable areas, no doubt designed for their protection (notice that none of those 3 lady types would venture within swinging distance of the railing? They may be crazy but they are not stupid).

Standing in front of them with the American flags was a nice touch, but next time Westboro come for a visit, cordon off their cage with a big white canvas, with something appropriately written on it like ,”God loves American soldiers and fags, but he is not too keen on haters”.

Lost Potential

One day, not too long ago, I was reading about J. R. R. Tolkein, who survived the trenches of World War I and drew on their horrors when describing the Dead Marshes. I thought of how the world would be different if a bullet had been a few feet from its mark and all he was to create vanished in a spray of blood and bone. I thought of Earnest Hemingway, who narrowly missed death from a mortar shell. I thought of my second cousin, who almost vanished from the world, along with the children he would have, on the beaches of Normandy.

For the United States alone, 1.3 million men and women have had their stories cut short — left their novels unwritten, their children unborn, their monuments unbuilt. A city of people roughly the size of San Antonio have seen all that they were, all that they could have been, taken away in an instant. But it is that loss, that sacrifice that makes all of our stories possible — that allows our children to be born, our novels to be written, our monuments to be built, our potential to be met.

The only way to repay that debt is to live the lives they couldn’t and be worthy of them. And to read the stories of those who’ve gone.


Graves at Arlington “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell

Today we remember those rough men.

We Americans can be a peculiar lot, proud, arrogant, boastful, take your pick, but it’s hereditary.  Benjamin Franklin, while attending the Second Continental Congress, felt that America, more violent and more enterprising, deserved to be a new nation, separate from it’s mother country.

The American soldier typifies the American dream, that freedom is not free, and today we honor our war dead.

I had a difficult time deciding what video to post, I almost went with this (talk about getting all weepy) but this honor’s more our current military, not those that died in the line of duty.

Today we offer a salute, a prayer of thanks, give a proper respect to those in our military. We don’t hash the reasons for going to war, the utter waste of good men , the heartache of a broken family, or why they are fighting thousands of miles away, that we reserve for the other 364 days.

We remember, God bless our troops.