Remember . . .

Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Richard Paige
Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial
by Richard Paige


“These heroes are dead. They died for liberty—they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars—they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living; tears for the dead.”

~ Robert G. Ingersoll

Memorial Day is not about sales, bargains, or balloons. It’s not about hot dogs, corn on the cob or cole slaw. It’s not about a long weekend or a three-day beer binge. It is about remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, those who have given up months, years away from family and friends to protect, about those who have been willing to serve.

For my father, my other father-in-law, and my husband—veterans all who gave service to this country.

Music by Loreena McKennitt, “Dante’s Prayer”

“And don’t play the hero, there is no past or future.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “Spoken from the Hedgerows”

Soldier at the Vietnam Memorial (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“Beg mercy, beg darkness for obscurity—
We do not comprehend the awe, it comprehends us—” ~ Dan Beachy-Quick, from “Heroisms, 4, 5”

Facing It

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way–the stone lets me go.
I turn that way–I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.

~ Yusef Komunyakaa

“Perfect valor is to behave, without witnesses, as one would act were all the world watching.” ~ François de la Rochefoucau

   

 

“Four things support the world: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the good, and the valor of the brave.” ~ Muhammad 

Memorial Day is upon us again. I won’t bother to harp on how this day—which was created to honor our fallen, our warriors, our heroes—has turned into yet another shopping extravaganza, a three-day weekend heralding beach weather, a day off from work with pay. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. The first known celebration was after the Civil War in 1866 in Waterloo, New York, to honor fallen Union soldiers.

In 1971, the name was officially changed to Memorial Day as part of the Uniform Holidays Bill, which created three three-day weekends: President’s Day, Veterans’ Day, and Memorial Day. In 1978, Veterans’ Day was changed back to its original date of November 11. The VWF has long taken issue with the official date change from May 30 to the last Monday in May as having “undermined the very meaning of the holiday” (2002 address).

In my own attempt to honor those who serve, I thought that I would do a post on something quite timely: I came across this piece by Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball.” Matthews is one of my favorite political analysts. He isn’t afraid to be enthusiastic, nor is he reluctant to admit that he might be wrong. But I felt that this particular piece about a gay man in the military is wholly appropriate for Memorial Day. The sexual orientation of the person who stands next to you when you go into battle matters less than the person’s ability to do his or her job, less than that individual’s belief in country, less than that man or woman’s commitment to having the back of the man or woman five feet away. 

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more about “Chris Matthews: DADT“, posted with vodpod

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was essentially a slap in the face, yet another thing that Clinton backpeddled on and soft soaped. Gays have been serving in the military for as long as there has been war. If you don’t believe that, then your head is stuck somewhere, not sure where. And these people deserve the right to have their partners informed when they are hurt, or worse, killed in action. These dedicated men and women deserve no less and no more than anyone else in their companies, their units, their battalions. 

Memorial Day is a day to remember, a day to pause and reflect. Memorial Day should be the same for everyone because blood that is shed runs red, regardless of faith, orientation, political belief, or color.  I long for the day when there will be no need to send our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, daughters and sons to war, but I know that that time will not come in my lifetime. 

 

Peace be with you all. 

The incomparable Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful”