Brief thoughts on Memorial Day

In the USA, Memorial Day is when we remember the fallen. Well-meaning Americans often thank veterans on this day, and I hope we will take those thanks in good grace as something offered in well-meaning generosity, but it’s not really our day. We have Veterans’ Day for that.

At times like these we think of the fallen, and we recite Laurence Binyon’s elegiac poem to them; as British as it is (he was Poet Laureate of England, when Poet Laureate was someone actually accomplished at poetry) it expresses a sentiment that knows no time and no nation. Go ye and find it.

We think of Ron, a teammate sidelined by injuries who kept serving selflessly as a civilian and a citizen soldier in what capacities the wreck of his back permitted. Ron was erased September 11, 2001, while taking risks he was warned against. His partner survived by blind luck; Ron’s remains were found, months later, and identified by the serial number in his crushed Glock.

We think of Chris, with whom we were never close, and whose indomitable toughness kept his wrecked body, blown 100 feet in the air and fundamentally skinned by fire, alive until the hospital and his immune system couldn’t keep pace with the infections,and courage alone couldn’t keep the Valkyries at bay.

We think of Jeff, another friend, gone in an instant, never touched by an enemy shot but slain by the brainless random action of a pressure-plate mine.

We think of the Air Force crew that launched for our firebase, but never arrived.

And we think of all the losses or our Regiment, the great guys we’ve never had a chance to know, but we know we would have liked most of them, and worked well with all of them. That’s the way SF is.

We don’t think about their families, actually, except when a memory of a funeral intrudes: weeping women; strong fathers bewildered and shattered; children still in denial. We don’t think about that. Too much pain lives there, pain and sadness and inadequacy.

Do not go to that dark place on this bright day. Celebrate the lives they lived, not the friends we lost. Live your live with verve and delight. Extend a hand to their bereaved families. And yes, crush their enemies, for they remain your enemies.

Be proud, be happy, be grateful; be supportive,and if you can’t be fearless, well, fake it. Live this day, the lives that they may not.  In this way, you honor the mission, honor the men, and honor the nation.

5 thoughts on “Brief thoughts on Memorial Day

  1. Jim

    Peefectly stated sir! My hometown was known to have the largest Memorial Day parade in the state of Connecticut for a number of years. A few years back, a new person became the head of the parade commitee. An apparantly sour old bast**d. His first move was to ban most of the childrens marching groups. There is a little dance studio that used to participate every year. The woman that runs it would go into her own pocket to supply the girls with camo pants and hats, and while they did not bust any moves that would make the Marine Corps Drill Team envious, they did get to walk along and feel special and feel a part of something big. There were also the little league teams and a few others as well. All young kids adding an element of cheerfulness to the day. After he issued his little decree, I attended the next town meeting. I stated that he misunderstood the true meaning of the day. Simply put, I tried to explain that all those who died did not give their lives so that others would mourn them, but that they died to ensure that those kids COULD march along a street in a free and peaceful country. My opinion fell on deaf ears and was, of course, met with disdain by those who disagreed with me. So now our parade has people staying away in droves, and a bitter old man has the more somber occassion that he wanted. I dont really see how that honors anyone who died in the cause of freedom and protecting those past generations of children, but thats just my opinion I guess. So to you and everyone else, I wish you all a happy and enjoyable day surrounded by family and friends. Live the day as if you are alive! I think thats the best tribute we can give them.

  2. 1SG Bud

    Since I’m an “Old Soldier” from the RVN era, I revere Memorial Day as do so very many of us. I sit with a tear in my eye remembering my friends and acquaintances who met their untimely demise. I was a door gunner in an Air Cavalry Troop who went in harm’s way every day, and I can thank God for taking care of me.

    As yet, I cannot seem to go to the Vietnam Wall…

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