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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

I’m a few days early this year, but I’m in the midst of moving cross country and have to write when I can. Portions of this text first appeared here on Stonekettle Station beginning on Memorial Day, 2011. Each year I update the text as my thoughts on the subject evolve. The wars change. The years pass. But the message remains the same.   //  Jim


 

The sky is the color of gunmetal.

Outside my window the mountains bulk like a fleet of ghostly warships on the horizon.

The world is silent here in the Matsu. The air is dead still. No dog gives warning. No planes buzz overhead. There are no glad cries of neighbor children. Even the whine of the mosquitos is missing this morning. It is cool and gray and silent as only Alaska can be, the kind damp dullness you feel in your bones – or I do anyway, the ache of more than two decades of service.

I’ll miss it.

I’ll be leaving Alaska soon, moving south to the Gulf Coast of Florida, the land of endless sunshine and unrelenting heat, alligators and rednecks and noise. I’ll miss the cool silent grayness of these Alaskan mornings. It often suits my mood, this grayness, the aching bones. Contemplation and memories, gray is a good canvas to paint on.

Somehow, today of all days, cool and gray seems fitting.

This is the day we Americans are supposed to pause for a moment and remember those many who have fallen in the service of our country. 

You see, Memorial Day isn’t about honoring veterans, not the living ones anyway.

Memorial day is supposed to be about the dead.

This is the day some dutiful Americans visit the graveyards and the military cemeteries to place flowers and flags and to remember husbands and brothers and wives and mothers and sisters and sons and daughters who wore the uniform and came when called and gave the last full measure. My own father lies out there, under the cool white marble of a military cemetery, and today I dearly wish I could stop by for a visit – but it’s half a world away, too far, and my visit will have to wait another month for my drive south to Florida. It pains me that I cannot be there today, but Dad would understand.

Today is a day when we will lay the wreaths and sound the lonely trumpet and shed a tear and a salute for those comrades long gone.

Today is about the cool gray ghosts who still wander the countless battlefields of America, from Lexington to Antietam, from the Ardennes to the Chosin Reservoir, to Tet, to Basra, to Kamdesh, and all the terrible battles yet to come.

And come they will. For that is our nature.

Once this day was called Decoration Day in honor of those who died during the American Civil War.

Later the holiday became a day of remembrance for those killed in all conflicts.

Today, Memorial Day supposedly marks the passing of those  who died in uniform, both in peace and in war.

Today is supposed to be about those who gave their lives for freedom and liberty, for justice and right, for the ideal of a more perfect union.

 

But in reality, it’s not the soldiers we remember. It’s the endless war.

 

It’s been more than a decade now since those terrible days in September of 2001.

Sixteen years of war and death and sacrifice. 

For our children, this most recent generation, the ones just now reaching the age of reason and awareness, they have never known an America not at war. 

They have never lived in a nation at peace.

Never.

Think on that. No, that’s not a rhetorical statement. Think on that. Think on how this conflict has shaped them, this generation, how it defines their worldview during the most formative years of their lives and how this world will shape the one they create a decade from now for their own children.

For them, this new generation, war has become so commonplace, so ubiquitous, that it’s simply business as usual.

For them, war simply is.

For them, war is just another aspect of American life, like plumbing and electricity and the flow of money, invisible and all around. The dead come home from conflict invisibly, hidden, silently, returned to their grieving families in quiet ceremonies away from the public eye, unlamented and unnoticed by a nation grown jaded and bored with slaughter. They don’t see the dead, not until days like this one, when the bodies are safely hidden away under slabs of white marble and fields of green manicured grass and words of patriotism and valor.

For them, this generation, war is normal.

And those of us born in the 1960’s? Well we certainly can’t tell them that this is wrong.

We certainly cannot tell this generation war is not the normal state, that normality is peace without conflict. 

See, because we grew up in a nation at war too.  By the time I was sixteen, America had been fighting in Southeast Asia for my entire life.  The media was daily filled with images of blood and death, body counts, mangled and maimed soldiers, of burning helicopters and a terrifyingly incomprehensible enemy.  We were told we would go next, that we had to, or the enemy would come here, to America, and slaughter us all.

Back home? Well, back home, the streets were filled with violence and unrest and it seemed that America was about to tear itself to pieces in a clash of violently opposed ideologies – because no matter how much the enemy might despise us, we hated ourselves, our neighbors, our fellow Americans, even more.  And how did that shape our worldview, the world we have given to our own children?

For us, war is the normal state of affairs too.

And our parents?

They remember a brief period of idyllic America, the perfect peaceful 1950’s, sock hops and ducktails and white picket fences, providing you lived on the right side of the tracks – while Korea raged unseen and ignored in the background and at home they waited for the bombs to fall and saw commies hiding in every shadow.

Their parents had World War Two, and before that … well, the list goes back a long, long way and perhaps war is a normal state of affairs for us Americans after all.

There are a lot of dead to remember on this Memorial Day.

 

And so it goes, this endless cycle.

 

Today there are those who instead of picnicking  with their familiars, instead of working in their yards or enjoying the day, will be patrolling the dark and dangerous corners of this world.  They’re out there, right now, walking the bitter broken mountains of central Asia. They’re out there right now standing the long watch on and below and above the seas. They’re out there in the fetid festering jungles of South America, in the dry dusty deserts of Africa, in the blistering heat of the Middle East, in lands so remote you’ve never even heard of them – and wouldn’t believe the descriptions of such places if you did.  They are out there right now, as far away as a cold airless orbit high above the Earth and as close as local bases in their own states and the armories of their own home towns.  

Some of these men and women will not live out today.

Some will most certainly come home to Dover Air Force Base in a cold steel box beneath the draped colors of the Stars and Stripes, their war over, their dreams ash, soon to be just another restless ghost in America’s legion of the dead.

Today, there are those who wear the uniform, but can no longer serve – their duty stations are the crowded and forgotten wards of military hospitals around the world. They won’t be working in the yard or grilling out today either. Some will spend the day with family, even if they are unaware of it. 

Soon too their last battle will be over.

Today there are those who no longer serve, no longer wear the uniform, but they still fight. They fight the nightmares of Vietnam and Beirut and Mosul and Firebase Alpha and a thousand other battlefields you’ve never heard of.   They are the walking dead, killed in action only they no longer have the wit to know it and so they haunt the streets of America, the forgotten unseen discarded cold gray ghosts of war and conflict, poisoned by nightmares, by pills and alcohol and poverty, slowly fading away.

And today, of course, there are those who no longer fight, no longer struggle, no longer remember.  They lay entombed in the soil of foreign nations, at Normandy, at Tunis, at the Ardennes, at Brookwood and Cambridge, at Flanders and Lorraine, at Manila, Mexico City, in the Netherlands, the Somme, and many other places whose names most Americans no longer remember or never knew. One hundred and twenty four thousand, nine hundred and nine American servicemen lay interred forever in twenty-four cemeteries on foreign shores and there they will stay, never to return to America.  They were the lucky ones, if you can call it luck, found and honored and laid to rest by their fellows.  Others, well, their bones are myriad and they litter the sea floor beneath all the oceans of the world or are lost in the jungles and deserts on all the world’s continents, their resting places unknown and unremembered. 

Today, here, within the boundaries of the United States, there are one hundred and forty-six national military cemeteries, and more than a million Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Guardsmen lie beneath the cold white granite, my own father among their brave company. 

Their battles are long, long over, even if the war still rages on.

They, all of them, came when called, some of their own free will and some not, and did their duty and no one, no one, can ask any more of them.

For them, for all of them, for those who have fallen or will fall in this lousy war, and for all those who have fallen in all the conflicts we’ve fought lo these many years, for those who will fall tomorrow, today raise a glass and give a nod towards the flag.

Remember them.

Remember those cool gray ghosts.

If only for a moment.

67 comments:

  1. Remember them I shall. Particularly when I vote.

    Scott Burnell
    1st AD, '86-'92

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    1. What a beautiful, elegiac tribute to all of our fallen, past, present, and - intolerably, yet we tolerate it - future. Thanks, Jim, for writing the perfect remembrance. Today I remember my own father, COL L.D. Holder, KIA Long Binh, South Vietnam, 22 March 1968. May all who are remembering a fallen loved one today be comforted, not assailed, by the memory of their dear one.

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  2. More than a moment in our hearts. In loving memory, LCpl Scott Schroeder, USMC, KIA January 29, 1991 Desert Storm Iraq

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  3. This is so heartfelt and beautifully written. Yes, I cried. I have always been grateful that at least 10 uncles came safely home from World War II, although not without scars, both physical and psychological. They are all gone now, but I had many years with them and I cannot imagine the pain if they had been taken away from us. Thanks, Jim.

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  4. Thank you for this essay Jim. You made my heart hurt and my eyes cry. That's a good thing. Thank you for reminding us that Memorial Day is to honor those who died in service to us, not those still living - THAT we will do in November. I was a senior in High School in 1975. I couldn't figure out what they were going to put in the newspapers when the Vietnam War ended. War was all I rememmbered seeing in the paper or on the TV news. Sadly, it's all my grandchildren see now. Not much has changed from my generation to theirs.

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  5. Thank you. You can turn a word so beautifully. Bring a tear to my eye and make me grateful someone can say what I feel far more eloquently. Never forget our fallen brothers and sisters.

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  6. When my brother was born in July, 1945, my father did not hear for three weeks he had a son joining their now family of four. He said he was fighting the war to end all wars. Little did he know that 25 years later he would lose this son in Vietnam. I witnessed my parents grief and sense of failure, my father feeling that because they were not rich he couldn't protect his son. It had been described as the poor man's war. My brother chose to go while my mother tried to encourage him to go to Canada. He felt it was his generation's war. Seems now that every generation has a war to fight. Will we ever learn?

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  7. Thank you, Jim Wright, for such an insightful, moving, and brilliant statement from your heart and your perspective, penned in the classic and incomparable Stonekettle Station style. This struck a place in my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I come from a family of many veterans and many wars. What a wondrous tribute to all that have fallen.

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  8. Thank You Jim.

    No one else, can say it like you do.



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  9. Thank you for this most well written article.

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  10. Thank you. I lost a very good friend in Viet Nam. I still remember him every time I see a parade because he always rang a bell to open our parade, until he was called to duty & gave his all. I do worry that our children will know nothing but a casual passing thought about those who have served way to many tours & seen way too much darkness to ever be whole again. For those who do remember & have served thank you for honoring our fallen comrades. Tears are appropriate on such a day.

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  11. In memory of my friend, Colin Kilcoyne, USMC. Rest in peace, Marine.

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  12. Thank you, Jim, for reminding us that Memorial Day is to honor those who have passed on and who were involved in war. My father, to his dying day, a few years back, still cried out in the night remembering/reliving the horror of the fight in Sicily. He was in his teens when he joined the Canadian Army. The war definitely changed him and I was not aware of how badly until my stepmother shared his night terrors with my sister and me. I believe he is at peace at last.

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  13. I honor the men and women who make the decision to serve in the military. When they sign on the dotted line, they know that they may give their life for what they are doing. I am humbled by their vision, resolve and firm belief that this country is worth it. What these men and women frequently don't know is about the brutality of war; that they may not die, but be horrifically wounded; that they may survive physically, but be among the walking dead; that they may not be able to enjoy the fruits this country has to offer because war transformed them into something neither they nor their family recognizes. I see these people as the casualties of war too. I don't think you have to die physically to be honored at Memorial Day. Some who are physically alive are in conditions worse than death.

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  14. Sadly, war would appear to be the common thread of humans.

    Jim

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  15. In memory of my father who served in WWII and is resting in Ft. Logan National Cemetery with my mother who built airplanes for the war. And in memory of Major Franklin A. Caras, whose MIA bracelet I wore during Vietnam until it broke. I still have it along with his picture, him in his flight suit.

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    1. I too wore an MIA bracelet until it broke. Lt. James E. Plowman. And I still have the pieces of that bracelet in my jewelry box.

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  16. Thank you Jim. I will remember my dad too - who flew B-24's all over the Pacific in WWII. I will remember my cousin, Michael Holstius, LCpl, USMC, KIA in VietNam, 1968.

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  17. Extraordinary, powerful, and eloquent words, Jim. Beautifully written. Thank you for remembering well through your writing for those who cannot, will not, or dare not remember for themselves.

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  18. Rhonda Baldwin-AmorganosMay 28, 2016 at 1:00 PM

    Thank you, Jim, for this reminder of what the holiday represents. I raise my glass. Remembering my grandfather Lt. Russell Jennings, Normandy 1944 and all others before and since.

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  19. A dream never to be realized, that we live in peace and war is but a memory of those buried but never forgotten. Until then I shall continue to support those who return from the horror fields at war, in honor of those who never made it home. I believe this would be their last desire, that we care for their brothers and sisters so that their sacrifice was not in vain. Thanks for your words.

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  20. The right people will not read this. They will not because they are insulated from our never ending conflicts. Thank you for giving those of us who do care your excellent essay. Remenbering our bother-in-law who served in the USMC during the Vietnam war. He lost his wife and children to divorce and ended up an alcoholic hanging out in VFW's. He could never forget the things he saw and did.

    CS in Florida

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  21. Thank you sir, for giving voice to the thoughts shared by many who lack your eloquence. I speak to flag presented at my father’s service on a regular basis, but can barely see it now through the tears.

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  22. Beautifully written. I'm a late 50's boomer and I don't remember there never being a war somewhere. I think you are right, Jim. There will be more coming. As long as people populate this planet, someone will always want something someone else has. The last verse of One Tin Soldier will always resonate with me:

    Now the valley cries with anger,
    Mount your horses, draw your swords!
    And they killed the mountain people,
    So they won their just reward.

    Now they stood beside the treasure
    On the mountain, dark and red
    Turned the stone and looked beneath it
    "Peace on Earth" was all it said.

    Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
    Go ahead and cheat a friend;
    Do it in the name of heaven,
    You can justify it in the end.
    There won't be any trumpets blowing,
    Come the judgment day;
    On the bloody morning after...
    One tin soldier rides away.

    If you don't mind, I'd like to dedicate your words to my husband's uncle, Rayford Gordon Huxford, who was killed as a fighter pilot in the Pacific during WWII. My husband, Rayford Huxford Taylor, proudly bears his name.

    Laura

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    1. Thank you Laura! As a Viet Nam vet I first heard the song in the early 70s and still cry like a baby every time I hear it. It's as relevant today as it was then, maybe more so. I come from a long line of "warriors"who came to abhor war. These were men, and women, who actually experienced war and, fortunately, lived to tell their stories to a new generation. They have passed, most of them, yet their message still resonates. I honor, and think about them daily. Not just on Memorial day. Herb, Bob, Hugh, et al...You're the real heroes!

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  23. Get out that old rusty screwdriver. Buy a dozen or so hardy carnations. Visit your nearest National Cemetary this weekend. Find a stone with no flowers. Poke a hole in the sod. Place a carnation in the hole. Move to the next forgotten stone. Do it again. You'll probably run out of flowers before you run out of stones.

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  24. It's made of cold black stone and in the noonday sun it casts a shadow halfway around the world. It holds the names of some 58000 veterans. Visit the wall, touch the stone, read the names, remember. You will be changed.

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  25. you've touched me in a new way Jim

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  26. Heartfelt essay Jim. I'm remembering my father scarred in and by Vietnam but always strong. My Uncle David killed on the second day of the Normandy invasion remembered by an entire generation of nieces and nephews who never knew him but wanted to.

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  27. 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.

    From "For The Fallen" by Robert Laurence Binyon.

    Lest we forget.

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  28. Beautifully written, and by beautifully I mean that you spare nothing, that you neither glorify the deaths, nor do you disparage them. You focus a beam of light on the subject from which it cannot escape. Six months after 9-11 my stunted, bewildered emotions finally came together in the realization that we, as a species, might not make it. We might have evolved a higher consciousness but we sure as hell hadn't gotten rid of our animal fears. And the combination was likely to kill us. We were that most dangerous of things: an intelligent animal. I was finally able to cry for the tragedy that "they" were us and "we" were them, but for an accident of birth and geography. I had tried hating "them" and it hadn't worked. It was a spiritual untruth. "They" were not separate from "us."
    Heaven help us.

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  29. Andrea BrendlingerMay 28, 2016 at 8:13 PM

    Thank you Jim. I saw a sign today that read "Happy Memorial Day". It made me just plain sad. I appreciate your essay very much.

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  30. As I've come always to expect from you, Jim,you've written another beautiful and touching piece.

    Not to take away from any of it, but I think you got Korea wrong. I was ten years old when the war broke out, I remember it clearly, and I'm quite sure it was not, "unseen and ignored."

    Korea was our first televised war, the first to come into our living rooms and show us Americans putting their lives on the line in another part of the world. I can still remember one that showed older guys — World War II vets, who were the first to get called up — their M-1s unstrapped, patrolling a bleak hill. It was the first where the other side made a concerted effort to "turn" younger, more mystified soldiers who had been captured into agents of propaganda. Shamefully, the folks back home were not kind to those who talked. It's easy to brave out torture from an arm chair. It wasn't until much later that "resist as long as you can" replaced a never, ever, rule concerning cooperation with the enemy.

    The Korean War gave rise to the term "brainwashing," which was what the "gooks" did to make American troops renounce the war. It gave rise to a deep seated fear that Communism possessed some kind mystical power to capture our minds by — hell, I dunno, magnetic thought waves or something. The distillate of this fear was the movie, "The Manchurian Candidate."

    The war was so much on the minds of Americans that Dwight Eisenhower was able to win an election and wrest the presidency away from Democrats by promising, "I will go to Korea" to end the war. And so under Ike it did end, sort of. But also sort of not. We've still got troops there today.And the grandson of the dictator we warred with is in power. And for the North koreans, and perhaps for us, nothing has changed.

    The New York Crank

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  31. "the forgotten unseen discarded cold gray ghosts of war and conflict."

    Just..wow. I mean, I know you write for a living, but that sir is a very nice turn of a phrase.

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  32. To perpetuate Blackness... add Grey.

    Grey is the color of Insanity and its ultimate expression, War.

    Grey is the color of Discord, the Disintegration it generates, and the Nightmares that result.

    Grey is the color of Depression. Those who are suffering from depression literally lose their ability to see the other Colors.

    Everything becomes Black, and NOthing White.

    Grey is the color of Suicide, the parent of Suffering.

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  33. Some years ago, while my retired parents were living with me (Dad's retirement having been stolen in a Bain-Capital-type buyout of the company Dad worked for), Sheriff's Dispatch woke me with an early morning call-out and I crept about the bedroom, getting dressed and trying not to wake my sleep-deprived spouse. I quietly closed the bedroom door and as I walked past the partially-open door to the dining room, could see my father, kneeling with his back to me, a handful of old black and white photos on the table in front of him. I stood there silently behind him, recalling that it was Memorial Day morning, and the young men in these photos would be Dad's brothers from that terrible night before dawn, June 6 1944. And, although over the years, I met men who had served with Dad in the 82nd Airborne Div, 508 Parachute Infantry Reg. Easy Co. I would never meet those in the old photographs before him, because their lives had ended that night/morning in Normandy outside St Mere Eglise. Dad lies beneath his own stone now, but my tears for him and his brothers, still flow.

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  34. I never thought about this. Our media does control our information saturation level. If they don't remind us we've been at war constantly for 16 years, we forget. This is not normal. Let those who profit from weapons get real jobs. Beat their swords into plough shares and do something productive, instead of manufacturing danger and profiting from our grief. We are beyond this as a species. It's time to grow up. To swim upstream and see what's next.

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  35. Thanks CWO,
    I'm sorry if I ramble a bit, but this post touched some nerves.
    Memorial Day always is a struggle for me. I've lost friends in training, and combat. It doesn't matter how either way they're gone, and I think about them every day so in some ways.... It's just another day.
    It's my hope that we as a nation will use this one day a year to really understand the pain, suffering, and sacrifices, and in understanding them maybe learn to make them unnecessary.
    It's not likely, but I'm trying to feed the better wolf.
    MSG Alvarado US Army (retired)

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  36. Thank you for this-and thanks in the names of my brother (ret.), my nephew (currently serving), my dad (Korea), and a good friend of mine who 'survived' Vietnam, but is still fighting it every day.

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  37. I cried before I finished it. I lost my dad 2 1/2 months ago. My dad was career military. Started his Army career in Korea and retired after his second tour in Vietnam. I have two sons that served. The older in the first Gulf War, the younger has the Kosovo ribbon. I have a grandfather I never knew buried in France. My thoughts always return to the WHY?? So some fat cat can get richer? How many of our young people, of our finest and brightest are we going to sacrifice on the altar of money. How long will we keep feeding the gluttony of the war machine. I was blessed beyond measure, my dad survived his 3 trips to war and my sons survived and came home. My heart aches for those families whose loved ones didn't. So much grief. So much damage to those still living. " Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly Before they're forever banned ?
    The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind "

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  38. Jim, so beautiful and so sad. Sadness for the fallen, particularly the ones who died for a cause they didn't understand or didn't agree with. They bravely went to serve the country they loved. I was born in 1950 and amazingly do not personally know anyone who lost their life in war but I grieve for those I do not know. I'll be in Washington, D.C. next week and I know I will break down visiting the Vietnam and WWII memorials. I served in the Coast Guard from 12/68 to 12/72 and have always been both thankful and proud that my task was saving lives rather than taking them. Had I been drafted at that time I may or not be here now. I often wonder if the terrible, tearful emotions I feel when I recall the horrors of the Vietnam War are a form of survivors guilt though I'm glad I was able to live and raise three fine children. Thank you again for this essay that brought tears to my eyes.

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  39. My dad (and mom) are in the National Cemetery outside of Sacramento (CA), because he was a WWII vet -- Army Air Force staff sergeant, radio communications. It's too far for me to travel just for the day, but I think of them every day. Thanks for your heartfelt tribute to those who served and your equally heartfelt condemnation of those who cause and profit from war.

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  40. Why can't we ever learn that war is not the answer? We send our young to slaughter decade after decade and when some of us question why, we are thought of as less than American, a traitor, commie pinko coward. I can't help but think of the great chief of the Nez Perce, Chief Joseph, who said, "I will fight no more forever." Why can't we ever learn?

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  41. Very profound thoughts to ponder on this Memorial Day Weekend. First time I've seen your blog, but this was spot on!

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  42. You could do an entire column on those who would ramp the violence, threaten to use nukes, and don't seem to give a damn. Trump with his multiple deferments. Dick Cheney would had better things to do. Ted Nugent, no I won't go there.

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  43. One of your most compelling and beautiful pieces. You are a decent man. You have my deep respect.

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  44. Let us remember Horace's 2000-year old lie:
    "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."
    There is no sweetness, nor any glory.

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  45. Thank you, Jim.

    Donald Allen R Demond, PFC, USA, 1969, Vietnam. Boyhood friend.
    Brent Britten Nauss, SP4, USA, 1969, Vietnam. Neighbor as teenager.
    Thomas T Hawkins, II, QMC(SS), USN, 2009, Dublin, GA. Shipmate. Groomsman at my wedding.

    I remember.

    Paul Cooper, former QM3(SS)

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  46. Jim,

    Thanks so much for a beautifully written tribute. As always, Shipmate, you have spoken in much the way I wish I could. I grieve with you for the loss of your dad.

    My dad was a World War II and Korea War US Marine combat veteran. I always felt greatly fortunate to have had him in my life as long as I did. His memories on Memorial Day often turned to his buddies, especially the 80% of his unit who lost their lives during the liberation of Guam in July 1944. Their memories live on with me as I remember the stories he told.

    I joined the Navy and was lucky enough not to be called to combat duty. But you are so right....From Korea to Vietnam and forward on to today and Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria, we have not had much peace.

    In special memory of my dad, CPL Robert E. Costen, USMC, retired (1925-2012).

    CAPT Laurel Costen USN retired

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  47. My uncle Wayne Gresham MSgt USA WWII was awarded a Bronze Star, but we don't know what for. He never talked about it to anyone. He died of service related injuries in July 1966, after long and lingering illness, the summer my sister and cousin and I were 6 years old leaving a war widow and children.

    His brother my uncle Dutch (Warren) Gresham Sgt, USA was an alcoholic after he came home from WWII and was eaten up with RA. His troop ship was torpedoed in the English Channel and he was one of the few to survive. My mother, 1Lt Shirley Gresham USMCWR WWII always believed those were also war wounds caused because he watched his friends, some he'd known from boyhood, die all around him and he had survivor's guilt.

    Wars, even righteous ones we "win," keep killing our people and messing up our families long after everyone comes home.

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  48. There are many types of leaders and leadership. There are those who can instill a sense of discipline, courage and camaraderie. Any military needs those type of leaders and the United States Navy recognized those qualities in you until your retirement. Another (and, to my mind, a more admirable) type of leader is the one that inspires people to raise their sights and standards, to demand more, not just of others, but of themselves. Your blog and your growing audience is testament that you possess that type of leadership as well, but this....

    "...the forgotten unseen discarded cold gray ghosts of war and conflict," are not unseen nor are they discarded, nor can they be by anyone who reads your words. Backed by those countless ranks of cold, grey, silent ghosts, your words ring out with a truth only those who have seen combat can fully comprehend. But know that those same words create in those of us who did not serve the aspiration to understand, to magnify that voice of so many who fell in causes worthy or otherwise, the one that simply says "Enough."

    I raise my glass to those that fell, in conflict or in peace but always, always in service. To those that died where they stood and those who sustained mortal wounds but died far away in time or place from where those wounds were sustained. May we collectively remember the true costs of war, for to do otherwise is mock their sacrifice. Pax. Salutate.

    And to Chief Warrant Officer James Wright, who inspires us to be better citizens, better neighbors - better fucking human beings. Salutate. Pax et domui.

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  49. Sometimes I forget that you are a master painter with words. Thank you.

    When you get to the Gulf Coast, look us up. We're going to be your neighbors over in Mobile, AL. I know some quiet places that are cool and soothing to the soul, ya just have to ask.

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  50. So many. So much given. I wish we could truly give peace a chance. Thank you so much for this, on this day of remembrance. It went straight to my heart.

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  51. Thank you for speaking so directly and honestly. You made me stop, consider and remember things that need to be remembered.

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  52. You have a remarkable voice. I hope that Florida doesn't give you laryngitis.

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  53. And in other parts of the world we have not been at war for centuries. We have dead, yes, people who helped the UN with peace keeping in Kongo, in Libanon, Cyprus, and now helped with the security in Afghanistan, but the fallen are very, very few since and since we haven't been at war since 1809, we don't live war. We fear it, but don't live it. We know of it but don't know of. We consider the implications, but cannot phantom the effect. Now our right wing christian party want's to go to war, on a crusade against ISIS with no regards of what will come of making war a natural response to everything. All they have to do is to look at the world and see, and fear what will become of the children that think war is a natural thing of life.
    Anders, Sweden.

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  54. My dad was interred at a Veterans cemetery and received full military honors from a squad based at McGuire AFB. They were incredibly good at their job: everything was done perfectly in their appearance, manner, and precision. My mother and my kids were mesmerized by them performing a rite that I already knew well. At the end the commander presented a perfectly folded flag to my mom. She passed it to me, and I noticed my 6 year old daughter looking at it. I asked Katie if she would hold it for Oma, and she took it. After the service the members of the squad offered personal condolences and their Sargent told me that there were 7 casings wrapped in the flag. A minute later I was talking to Katie and she was holding that flag so tightly. In one of those moments of crystal clarity, I saw a tear roll off of her cheek and fall on the flag. That was now Katies flag. Later mom said that we should fly that flag on Memorial Day to honor Dad. I told her that the flag had been sealed, and would never be opened. Katie is almost 30 and still has the flag.

    That's what I think of on Memorial Day.

    I expect to join my dad there one day.

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  55. Wilfrid Owen (KIA, November 1917), ladies and gentlemen:


    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori
    .

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  56. In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And "discovered" a land occupied by local natives that he promptly enslaved and slaughtered in his quest for infamy and riches. Someone once gave me some excellent life advice ~ what you do to get it is what you have to do to keep it. America came into being through war. And war is what America has to do to keep itself going. America will forever be at war until it goes the way of all other empires. The only question is whether it will completely collapse and cease to exist as with the Roman Empire, or if it will divest itself slowly and orderly to make way for the next empire as with the British Empire.

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  57. War and rumors of war. I was born in 1937. Rumors of war were rife. In December of 1941 we lived in Tallahassee. On December 7 our landlord pounded on the door and announced "the Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor." I was four and a half and the only part of the sentence I didn't understand was "Pearl Harbor." In later years I operated ships out of Mayport. Thanks for reminding us about "Decoration Day." I wish we also remembered "Armistice Day." I have been to Normandy and to Flanders Field (Ypres) and to Pearl Harbor. I have seen the rubble still in London in 1955 and the damage in Berlin in 1980. More Americans need to make these pilgrimages. Wars are easy to start and hard to finish. Even so, there has been peace in Europe since 1945. That peace was partly because of NATO - also because of the EU and because of the Warsaw Pact. Alliances have been a good thing.

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    1. You can also thank Nobel Peace Prize winner General George C Marshall for that. He saw, and understood how Versailles created Hitler and the Nazi party; and he sought to prevent another war a generation later. He was successful in that goal.

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  58. Thank you Jim. Safe travels. Catch you on the warmer side.

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