Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dies Irae

I post this every Memorial Day.

I hate what this holiday has become, especially in the "Support The Troops" Dubya years. It seems to me that the VERY best thing for the majority of Americans would be to think of this Memorial Day not as time reserved for barbeques and softball in the park, but as the time it took a 19-year-old private to bleed out, alone amid the dying crowd in the grass before the wall at Fredricksburg.The time it took a husband and father to convulse his way into death from typhus in the tent hospital outside Santiago de Cuba.

The time that the battalion runner, a former mill hand from Utica, New York, spent in a shell hole in the Argonne staring at the rest of his life drizzling out of his shattered legs.

The time it took for the jolting trip down the Apennines to the CCP, unfelt by the father of three because of the jagged rip in his gut wall that killed him that morning.The time required to freeze a high school kid from Corvallis, Oregon, to the parched, high ground above the Yalu River.

The time it took for the resupply bird to come to FSB Albany for the plastic bag that contained what had been a young man from the Bronx who would never see the Walt Frazier he loved play again.

The time taken up by the last day in the life of a professional officer whose fiance will never understand why she died in a "vehicular accident" in the middle of a street in Taji.I've been proud to be a soldier, and don't kid myself that there will be a day when the killer ape "studies war no more". But the modern view of war as video entertainment for the masses sickens me. Every single fucking human being needs to have it driven into his or her forehead with a steel nail that every single day in every single war some person dies a stupid, meaningless death that snuffs out a world in a moment. That those empty eyes zipped inside a bag or covered by a bloody blanket were the windows to an entire universe, once.

That the price we pay for "forging our national will" is paid in the unlived futures of those we kill and those of us who die to make it so.

Maybe then we'd be sure of what we want to achieve before we open the doors of the Temple of Janus.


srv said...


mike said...

Yes, thanks Chief.

The Minstrel Boy said...

PILE the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work--
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

carl sandburg

most of the time i figure that the only fitting monument for a grunt soldier is grass. green, waving grass.

basilbeast said...

One of my favorite TV shows ever was Babylon 5. In this piece you echoed a scene about death, I don't remember the specifics, but just the essentials. That a life taken takes away all the person is, was and could have been. Plus all the lives that connected.

Some obviously deserve it, but most don't.

And it's not just a physical death that kills, it's also the mental. I've been reading about the rate of military suicides.


Lisa said...

Chilling. Thank you for your service, now and then, Chief.

FDChief said...

MB: Thank you for the Sandburg - it is one of my favorite "war poems" for its haunting image of time and loss. Every time I read it I think of the brooding Ossuary at Verdun, with the level grass stretching away into the distance.

Basil: The wounds of war have always been deeper than muscle and bone, and those who suffer them are seldom those whose piping led the children under the mountain.

Lisa: Thank you. But I feel I have not served in any sense that those have who are still living with the violence in their head and will every day of their lives. "And the living will envy the dead"...