Monday, May 25, 2009

May 25, 2009

     Maybe today is Abraham Lincoln's holiday.  He'd surely have preferred it to his birthday - honoring men he'd led in war...."let us strive to finish the work that we are in;  to bind up the nation's wounds;  to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow...."
     Maybe it is for Wildred Owen, a poet who fought in World War I.  He hated that war and died in its last week.   "If you could hear at every jolt the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs/... 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."
     Maybe the holiday belongs to a guy whose name I can't remember with whom I spend a long, bad day forty-some years ago in Vietnam.  The unit's job that day was to retrieve the bodies of young Americans who'd been ambushed and killed the day before.  At the end of the day, the guy I was with said, "It's a hell of a thing to say you've accomplished your mission when it's one like this."
     It's about honoring those who've served, and those who've died in battle.  Doesn't matter what kind of a war it is.  It mattered that they cared enough about their friends, their neighbors, their country to go.  I remember Bill Mauldin, the World War II cartoonist, saying that the war hadn't made the world any better "but you had to kill Hitler."   And, of course, you did.
     That was a "good war," most of us thought.  Vietnam divided us down the middle.  Iraq?  I can't imagine a good reason for invading it.  But we did and the guys, just about all of them, went.  Some went three and four times.
     But they cared enough to go.  Let us pause today and honor them all - those who came back to us, those who did not. 
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