Tuesday, May 28, 2013

All Gave Some, and Some Gave All

Thought for the day: To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace. [words engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial in Illinois]





Memorial Day weekend is frequently considered America's unofficial start of summer, so did you have your first big cook-out of the season?  Didja get your white shoes dusted off and bring 'em back to the front of your closet? Were you able to get out and take advantage of all those big sales? Get everything done on your to-do list? Forget anything? Anything at all?

 I hope you took a little time to remember what Memorial Day is all about...

John Moon, the former commander-in-chief of the VFW, said

 Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. America's collective consciousness demands that all citizens recall and be aware of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime. Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That's why they are all collectively remembered for one special day.

 In order to provide us with a convenient three-day weekend, Memorial Day was observed yesterday, but its traditional date was May 30, so with the way my blogging schedule works out, I'm writing about Memorial Day in between the two dates. The 30th also happens to be my brother Ron's birthday. He's a retired Marine, who served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam. So to him, I wish a very happy birthday, as well as gratitude and peace.



Those four simple but powerful words are engraved on the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.  And here is a poem with that same four-word title,  written in 1988 by Air Force ROTC Cadet Major Kelly Strong:

                                              I watched the flag pass by one day.
                                              It fluttered in the breeze.
                                             A young Marine saluted it,
                                             And then he stood at ease.

                                             I looked at him in uniform
                                             So young, so tall, so proud,
                                             With hair cut square and eyes alert,
                                             He'd stand out in any crowd.

                                              I thought how many men like him
                                             Had fallen through the years.
                                             How many died on foreign soil?
                                             How many mothers' tears?

                                             How many pilots' planes shot down?
                                             How many died at sea?
                                             How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
                                             No, freedom is not free.

                                             I heard the sound of "taps" one night,
                                            When everything was still.
                                             I listened to the bugler play
                                            And felt a sudden chill.

                                             I wondered just how many times
                                             That "taps" had meant "Amen,"
                                             When a flag had draped a coffin
                                             Of a brother or a friend.

                                             I thought of all the children,
                                            Of the mothers and the wives,
                                            Of fathers, sons and husbands
                                            With interrupted lives.

                                            I thought about a graveyard
                                           At the bottom of the sea,
                                           Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
                                           No, freedom is not free.

Vietnam memorial
As an amateur radio operator, I've also had the privilege of serving as a member of  Army MARS. (Military Affiliate Radio Service) For Memorial Day one year, the Chief shared a story with us about a Captain who was stuck in traffic at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was pouring rain, and this captain was growing increasingly more agitated because he was running late, and knew he'd never make it to PT on time. Just as traffic was finally starting to move, the vehicle in front of him stopped, and a private jumped out into the pouring rain and ran into the Memorial Grove beside them.

What a bonehead! the captain thought.

Horns were honking, and the captain, as well as everyone else behind him, were fuming. Still, the private kept going, with his BDUs soaked and plastered to his skin. He ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground, and set it back up again. Then he came to attention and saluted, before running back to his car and driving off.

The captain later said, "That soldier, whose name I'll never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures. That simple salute - that simple act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag - encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will keep the mission. I am an American soldier."

We may not be soldiers, but the least we can do is remember them, a very small effort for those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.




                                         Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Psssst. Only a few more days left in the month. Every comment you make earns a shot at winning a FREE signed copy of my book.

Today is supposed to be my book's big launch day... woo HOO! The e-version is, indeed, now available on Amazon. The paperback is a little slower to show up for some reason, but it should be there soon. (Nothing like showing up late to its own party. Sorry 'bout that.)

68 comments:

  1. With so many of our men away in Afghanistan, it seems like Memorial Day every day.

    I'd love to tell you what I would like to do to those who desecrate their graves, but I'm too polite!

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    1. I know what you mean. Maybe we'll see the end of sending our young men and women off to war someday. We can only hope. You may be polite, Cro, but I get the idea... and I agree.

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  2. Congratulations on the launch (again). And no, freedom comes at a price. Lovely sentiment. And I loved that the fuming Captain stopped, thought, and changed his mind.

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    1. Thank you. Yeah, the story about the Captain is a reminder that even those in uniform need reminding every once in a while. For the rest of us, it's much too easy to take our freedom for granted.

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  3. "After much occasion to consider the folly and mischiefs of a state of warfare, and the little or no advantage obtained even by those nations who have conducted it with the most success, I have been apt to think that there has never been, nor ever will be, any such thing as a good war, or a bad peace"

    Ben Franklin

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    1. I always knew Ben Franklin was a smart man.

      Reminds me of what a Vietnam vet said on a PBS special by and for Vietnam vets: "The lesson of war is... no more war."

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  4. Hi Susan .. hope you had/have a happy and peaceful day .. with your brother's birthday on Thursday .. I loved the poem, but the story is amazing isn't .. amongst all the hustle and bustle the meaning life shone through.

    Thanks so much and good luck with the book launch .. being late means more party time! Cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi, Hilary. Glad you liked the poem and story. I was wondering: Is "Taps" played for military funerals in the UK, too? I wasn't sure if that was purely U.S., or if it were more universal.

      Yes, LOTS of party time. For better or for worse, unless I remove it, my book will be on Amazon for a long long time. Swilling lemonade and eating cashews, I suppose. Cheers1

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  5. I think of some lines from a poem specifically about the battle of Okinawa. I think it holds true for all who sacrifice:

    ...And when I get to Heaven
    To Saint Peter I will tell,
    "One more Marine reporting, sir -
    I've served my time in hell."

    Best wishes with your book!

    Diana at About myself, by myself…

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    1. Those lines you quoted from that poem tell the tale well.

      Thanks!

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  6. Beautiful post. Thanks for reminding us.

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  7. What a beautiful post and one that everyone should read. I love the story of the unnamed private. That's true honor.

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  8. A very touching post. I especially liked reading the Captains story.

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    1. I like the Captain's story, too. Such a humble act of respect.

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  9. I remember when Memorial Day was called Decoration Day (officially changed in 1967).

    I watched the Memorial Day concert from Washington on Sunday night on PBS. It was so beautiful and touching, and I cried like a baby.

    I loved your story about the soldier and the fallen flag.

    Keep us updated about when the paperback of your book will become available.

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    1. Yeah, me too. (Does that mean we're getting delightfully... mature?)

      We watched that concert, too. We never miss them; they've all been touching.

      Will let you know about Amazon and the paperback. If you don't want to wait, it IS available in book-form at the createspace.com store.

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  10. Wonderful post, thank you!

    Happy Birthday to your brother, but I have to correct you, I don't think a Marine ever "Retires!"

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    1. I'm glad you liked it.

      You are absolutely right; once a Marine, always a Marine.

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  11. Great post indeed
    They should have all the respect in the world at their feed
    As for those idiots sitting upon high
    I will bite my tongue and not mention how they should fry
    Oopsy
    Wasn't me haha

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    1. Yes, it's far easier to send young men and women into war from behind the safety of a plush office than it would be to stand beside them... or in front of them... on the battlefield.

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  12. Susan, I've been so remiss with my blogging I missed that you are launching your book. Heading off to Amazon now....Congratulations

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  13. Such a good story--gave me chills :) We went out to the cemetery here to pay our respects and with my brother in the air force this is never far from my mind. Wouldn't have minded a barbecue to go along with it though :)

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    1. Having a loved one in the military has a way of keeping us more aware of the people who serve and sacrifice, doesn't it?

      You can always have that barbecue today...

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  14. Okay. The video made me cry. Memorial Day is not a "holiday" to me. It bugs me that stores have Memorial Day sales. It's a very important day of remembrance for me because my dad, a World War II vet, died on Memorial Day 22 years ago. I know the date of Memorial Day changes from year to year, but I will always think of him as dying on Memorial Day. If he could have chosen a day for his death, Memorial Day probably would have been his choice. He was so patriotic.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I'm so sorry to make you cry , but that's an awesome rendition of "Taps", isn't it? It's very fitting that your dad died on Memorial Day.

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  15. Good post.

    Being a hippy I am against violence and war as a solution to conflict. That being said, it is disheartening how our country can send people into battle and after they are hurt (mentally or physically) not give them the support that they need to cope or recover.

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    1. Amen. You've definitely got that right. It's beyond disheartening... it's downright shameful.

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  16. Well, as you'll see, I still don't quite have my act together. If I actually made a note of this date, it's no longer in any of my regular note places. Sigh. Off to FB and tweet the news.

    Congratulations and Many Sales!

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    1. Oh, pshaw! You've got your act together more than most people. Two books in a year? You're a human dynamo!

      Thanks so much. I do appreciate it.

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  17. 'He ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground, and set it back up again. Then he came to attention and saluted, before running back to his car and driving off.'

    Thank you, Sus.

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  18. What a powerful story, and how kind that you shared it. Thank God for men like that private who still have such a strong heart. I loved the story.

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    1. I'm glad you liked the story. The world would be a better place if there were more people like that private in it.

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  19. congrats on book launch. This was a very nice Memorial post. I'm a day late reading, but truly one can honor those who serve on any day. We flew our flag under cloudy skies in TX, but still got in some grilling and a brisk swim.

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    1. Thanks. You aren't a day late reading... I was a day late posting. Or early, if you're like me and still think of the 30th as the "real" Memorial Day. Sounds like you had a great day yesterday.

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  20. I think it's sad that a lot of our holidays aren't honored as they once were. And I agree with the marine who said,"The lesson of war is...no more war."

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    1. Yeah, me, too. Too bad the people in charge of waging war don't listen to the men and women who actually fight in them.

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  21. Love the story about the private and the flag!

    I'll have to surf over to Amazon and look for your book. I'll hold off on downloading it, since I'm convinced I'll be the winner of the actual, real-life signedbook...

    Give the kitties who will draw the name a tuna treat from me! ;-)

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    1. Glad you liked the story, and I LOVE your optimism! Good luck. If ya really want to bribe the cats, forget the treat... they prefer real tuna. (They have good taste.)

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  22. What a wonderful post, and I loved the touching poem.
    One of my Uncles passed away on Memorial Day (he was a veteran of WWII). Ironically, his daughter (my cousin Nancy) was born on Memorial Day.

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    1. Thanks. Glad ya liked it.

      It's rather fitting for a vet to die on Memorial Day, isn't it? Both my brother and one of our uncles were born on Memorial Day.

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  23. Susan, a most moving post that I've repeatedly visited today and have finally decided comment upon, to plug our local Sacramento VA Medical Center. This facility, this dedicated staff, provide what Hemingway might call "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" for those suffering effects of Agent Orange, Post-traumatic Stress, to veterans a half-century out of Vietnam and to younger physically and psychologically wounded people of more recent wars --cancer screening, therapy, classes in diet and personal management. It's not like in the movies where everyone walks young and triumphant into the credits. The heroes need help and here the VA is doing its best.

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    1. Thank you. VA hospitals often get a bad rap, but the people I knew who worked in them were dedicated, and treated the vets with respect and caring.

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  24. That poem always makes me cry.

    Great post. :)

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  25. Funny you should mention white shoes. I was wondering if the old white show start was July 4 or Memorial Day. I forgot.

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    1. It's typically Memorial Day, but if you're like me, you wear whatever color you darned well please whenever you darned well wanta wear it!

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  26. Well. This post made me cry. And brings to mind the sight of two officers walking up our block, bringing everything to a halt, during Vietnam.
    I hate and will always oppose war, but that's never a reason to disrespect or forget those who've put their lives on the line and lost them. I'll just keep hoping that one day there'll be no more war. Period.

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    1. Sorry, kiddo. You have a tender heart.

      You're right about wars coming to an end, and I hope we live long enough to see it.

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  27. A beautiful post, a poignant story, and a moving poem. Thank you so much. A few years ago I visited the D-Day beaches at Normandy. It's a gorgeous area, peaceful and scenic, but even after nearly three-quarters of a century, the land remains brutally pocked and cratered. For me it reflected of the true cost of war—win or lose. The battle may be over, but the scars remain.

    On a lighter note, I just ordered my copy of Hot Flashes & Cold Lemonade. Yay! Congratulations, Susan!

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Wow, it must have been an emotional experience to visit the D-Day beaches. Seeing them in movies and documentaries is one thing, but actually being there must have felt like you were on hallowed ground.

      WooHOO! Cool. Thank you. I hope you like it!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. Sorry; I didn't mean to make you cry. I'll be right over to your place with some chicken soup and a hug...

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  29. Freedom is not Free. So very true, and yet it should be. If only wars could stop.

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    1. Yes, it should be. Sad to say, but even if all wars were to stop, I have a feeling there'd still be haves and have-nots, and continued oppression in the world.

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  30. Great post. I work with the generation that fought WWII (and others) and they have my complete respect and admiration. And, they were just kids(!) when they fought that war!
    Thanks for honoring their sacrifice.
    ~Just Jill

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    1. Yeah, you're right. They were kids, but they had to grow up real fast. When my husband was in Vietnam, he was the "old man" of the crew, and he was only twenty-one.

      Every time I see your "Just Jill", it reminds me of "Just Jack" on Will & Grace. Intentional? (If it is, I"ll picture you framing your face with your hands as you say it...)

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  31. Love the poem! Freedom is not free! Kudos to the brave men and women who have served our country to defend our freedom!

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  32. A wonderful and touching post. And I loved the poem.

    Nas

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  33. Poignant story about a young soldier who did what was right.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I do appreciate it, and am glad you appreciated that story.

      Get ready! Here I come to visit your blog... ready or not!

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