Monday, November 10, 2008

Faces of the fallen.

Once more Veteran's Day is upon us. I would hope this isn't the only time that those who have and are serving get attention. A guy in a sporting goods store made a comment to me the other day. He said that we're hearing a lot less about Iraq these days in the news. I reminded him that our men and women are still living it every day. He didn't know what to say after that.

I'm one of those who thank members of the military for serving. I've paid the tab at restaurants for uniformed soldiers. The purpose of telling you that isn't to make me look special or better than anyone else. People are free agents and have to do what their hearts move them to do. Maybe my heart's just moved a little more because of kinship. A lot of soldiers from my era were drafted. Military people today are volunteers.
They're the ones who are pretty special in my book.

I saw a guy with a t-shirt that read:

"My cousin serves for God and country. He fights for friends and family."

What a travesty if that nobility goes unappreciated. These are pictures of lost lives. Thankfully, a lot come back to us still among the living. Nobody comes back unscathed, though. Physically or mentally, there's a price. Thank you to one and all. We're sorry for your pain but blessed by your efforts.

It's been my custom on this day to take a ride on the bike. I'd visit graves of family buried in the Willamette National Cemetery. I would ride to the Memorial Wall in Portland. Last time I did the ride I got so lost emotionally that I nearly crashed on a wet bridge in the Big City. My senses were dulled to the smell of a diesel spill on a rainy street. It was way too close. I'm not ready to take that chance this year. Yeah, I know it's not in the same spirit of sacrifice our soldiers show. On the other hand, crashing a bike on the freeway doesn't have the same international implications.

There's a floating display at our mall. It's called the Wall of Honor. It started as a school project. Thousands of pictures cover the boards. Names, units, birth places. And those faces. I can't describe how haunting it is to me. Looking at the faces of these human beings The earnest faces of young men and women. At the time the pictures were taken, these people had no idea of anything but a normal future of growing old. Now they no longer exist except in our memories. And the pain that family and friends live with each day hence.

Nothing any of us can say or do at this moment will bring these ones back. They deserve honor for their sacrifice though they may never be aware of our prayers. For this special day tomorrow, though, I offer these prayers.

If there is any kind of afterlife, may these souls be reaping the just rewards for their sacrifices.

May their families eventually find the peace and strength to cope and carry on.

Most of all, may humanity one day find a better way to solve their differences and live in harmony.

God bless, and Godspeed to all.

Miles and a solemn heart,



Charlie6 said...

Great post Irondad!

The colors will fly at my house tomorrow of course.

"The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten."
Calvin Coolidge

It Has Always Been The Soldier.
It is the soldier,
not the President who gives us democracy.
It is the soldier,
not the Congress who takes care of us.
It is the soldier,
not the Reporter who has given us Freedom of Press.
It is the soldier,
not the Poet who has given us Freedom of Speech.
It is the soldier,
not the campus Organizer who has given us the
Freedom to Demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
who salutes the flag;
who serves beneath the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
that allows the protester to burn the flag.

(Father Dennis O'Brien, US Marine Corp. Chaplain)

Bryce said...

n 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.
- John McCrae

John McCrae, a Canadian born
in nearby Guelph (pronounced Gwelf)
composed the poem during WWI.

There is a memorial park in Guelph
dedicated to McCrae and amateur radio operators each year a week before Remembrance Day November
11, operate a station at the park
using a specific call sign. I worked the station last week for
four hours.

We in Canada understand the plight of war however we also understand the futility of such combat as well. Bottom line, at the eleventh
hour, on the 11th day of the 11th
month stand with head bowed and
think of what has gone before so you can stand and remember.

Dan, go to the family cemetary
at the top of the hill, spend time with those of your family that are no more except in your heart, recall, weep think and be glad.

Oh and don't drop the bike on a
certain or any other bridge.

As for the others, you do your
bit this Veteran's Day;
we're all in this together.

fasthair said...

I've said it before Dan and I will again. Thank you Dan for your service in a war that you will never forget.


Arizona Harley Dude said...

Great post Dan. We say the pledge every morning in my classroom to the Daughter and Son-In-Law of my ex girlfriend. She served 17 months in Iraq. He is doing his second tour in Iraq and I await word of his safe return to his wife and year old son. I believe the families pay a heavy price for the efforts of all the Brave Men and Women who protect us and give us the right to do whatever we choose on Vetern's Day. I will honor all of them on this day.

R.G. said...

Thank you for this post Dan.

Anonymous said...

The Poppy has become the symbol of remembrance in England, and it always would humble me to see people displaying that symbol on their winter coats walking down a busy high street in the dreary autumn weather.

Such a small thing meant so much to me when I was serving.

I remember growing up and taking part in the annual Remembrance Sunday parade as an army cadet. Listening to the names of the fallen dead from our school, from the two world wars and beyond.
More names are now on that list. Some of students who came and left since I left the school in 1992.

I remember the immense pride I felt, commanding the Remembrance Parade at the RAF College, Cranwell during my officer training.
I wouldn't have felt such pride if I'd known then that some of my fellow officers in training would have their names engraved in stone on a memorial, just a few years later.

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.

Jeff In NY said...

I'm in a brass band and it is an incredible experience to play our national anthem for flag and memorial ceremonies at the crack of dawn on Memorial day. To see the hand full of verterans at these events in very small towns puts a lot of things in perspective. The respect and thanks shown to these vets is something to see and feel.

On a different subject, I too had an oil spot experience the other day and don't want to go through that again. Both the front and back end tried to wiggle out from under me. I usually see the simmering puddles but, this being my first corner of the morning, the brain was not yet fully engaged. Lesson learned...

Lucky said...

Great post Dan.

I'm currently on assignment in Ottawa, so I was finally able to attend the national ceremony to remember our fallen countrymen and women.

I've got a two of my old college buddies serving in Afghanistan, and they were on my mind throughout most of the event.

To see the WWII and Korea veterans march by was one of the stronger moments of the day. Although time has taken it's toll on these aging warriors, they still walk proud in the shadow of the War Memorial's cenotaph.

When watching the news last night, I caught a clip of a WWII veteran commenting on the day's events. When asked what his greatest fear was, he simply responded: "that people will forget". I'm encouraged by the numbers of youths that attended the celebration. A group of about twelve teenagers were standing next to me in the crowd, and I got to talking with a few of them. None of them seemed to have family or friends in the military, yet they were standing there, quiet, with heads hung low at the 11th hour.

Maybe there is still some hope for the future.

Best regards,

Jeffry said...

Thanks for the post and our soldiers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Irondad for the reminder. These men and women should never never never be forgotten.

The Snark said...

Agi Idup, Agi Ngalaban.

As long as there is life, we shall fight.

7 Ranger Regiment, Royal Malaysian Army.

Steve Williams said...

Thanks for the potent reminder of what it costs when young men and soldiers go off to war...

It's difficult to get my head around the loss of life in war. When I walk through the shrine at the military museum down the street and look at all the names carved in granite, even from WWI and WWII, it's hard to accept. Looking at those recent losses in Iraq it's even harder.

Wars and battles have provided us with many freedoms, and others have not. I always pray that the people we elect are prudent with our military. Old men make war but young men (and women) die. Veterans Day reminds me of the responsibility I have not just to those who have fallen, but to those who could.

I hope Veterans Day gives our leaders pause that they consider our soldiers well. For those who never served in battle they may pay heed to the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower a year after the end of World War II:

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity."

I hope that their decisions are good ones and that every life counts, then, now, and tomorrow.

irondad said...

I'm doing this as a group reply. A sincere thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm touched that people still care so much. The subject of war and sacrifice is deep. Everyone looks at things slightly differently based on personal experience. If I try to make individual replies I feel I risk a chance of cheapening your offerings. Best to let each comment stand and shine on its own.

Take care,


John McClane said...

At church last Sunday, Remembrance Sunday, we were given the full text of the Binyon poem.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

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 contemn.
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.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.