Monday, May 28, 2018

Military Monday - Memorial Day

A lot of Americans consider Memorial Day weekend as a three day weekend and not much else.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day. When war widows and sons and daughters of those who fell in the War Between the States would place flowers and flags upon the graves of the war dead. Both Union and Confederate. Many of whom were interned at General Lee's estate at Arlington. The most holy of American military shrines. But on this Memorial Day I would like to discuss a different type of memorial.

In the Argonne, there was once a P-17 Enfield stuck in the ground with, an Indian Head bedecked helmet sitting atop it. On Bataan there was a -1903 Springfield stuck in the ground much the same way, with a helemt sitting atop it. In Belgium, it would have been the charred remains of a M-4E3 Sherman tank. In Korea, a F-86 that got tangled up with Russian supplied and flown MiG-15s. Vietnam would have been an M-16A1 or maybe a Crusader driver who didn't make it back to his old Essex class fleet carrier after a strike up North. In Desert Storm it would have been a LAV-25 that ran afoul of a Swagger ATGM. And in the GWOT, the memorial would be a M-4 carbine and a set of dog tags.

But there is more to it than that. The guy whose tags hung off that M-4 was a tall, gangly kid from a dried up mill town in west central Georgia. He joined the Guard because his buddies did, there was a war on, and they would pay for him to go to technical school. If he could get his HVAC certification, he could take care of his Mom, pay off the truck, and buy a new boat. Oh, and those raghead bastards used planes as cruise missiles, and well, his Daddy didn't fight in Vietnam for that shit to happen here.

And that kid was my friend. And my turret gunner. And he died doing his job. And the town put a marble marker on the square for him. It's right next to the Vietnam one. Our small town got lucky in Gulf War I. The mill was still operating so those 18 year high school grads had a place to go other than the Army. We won't stay lucky. Kids join the Army because their low ASVAB scores preclude anything else. But it's okay. They understand the risk. And still go. Just like Danny did.

The clitter clatter of the NJROTC Battalion's deactivated M-1 Garands bore him good tribute.He had been the high school BN S-3 when we graduated. The drum major of the high school band played taps. His Mother spoke of her pride. His Scoutmaster spoke of his service. I tried to speak and couldn't find the words.  A star on the small bore team, the new rifle range bears his name. He'd get a kick out of that.

And above all, to him, the apprentice HVAC Tech, Memorial Day was a three day. He'd load up the cooler and head to the lake. Enough beer to lay low an Infantry Platoon and enough bourbon to open a liquor store. And maybe, just maybe, if he played his cards right, talk the bikini bottoms off a chick from the small neighboring community college.

I like to think that he is somewhere in Valhalla working on his flies, or maybe futzing about his Savage 110 in .308, wanting the perfect deer load because we just got that new lease down in Taylor county.

And above all, Danny wouldn't want you to be sad. He would want to ask why you weren't piss drunk and trying to talk your way into that pretty DG's bikini bottoms.

And, to me, anyway that is Memorial Day.

Honor the Fallen. However you chose. That's what they died for.

So today, I'm gonna wake up, have some coffee. Go to work. Hopefully sell some guns.And then probably drink a beer or two. Danny would like that, but first he'd call me a little bitch for not having a three day.


  1. Hey Mack;
    That was a real good post, and I know hard to "write". You did extraordinarily well.

    We honor our friends, I lost one to an Apache Hellfire, they call it a blue on blue but it still hurts. I have lost other friends before we deployed and lost some after we returned. Some of them couldn't make the adjustment and removed themselves from the equation and I by the grace of God and a good women was able to bury the rage, bitterness and the other issues that Veterans had coming from a war. We honor our friends and one day we will see them again, I call it Valhalla or Fiddlers Green. To me it is where warriors meet to swap lies and other stories. I will raise my glass to "Woody", Jeffrey Stover, Dale Thomas, Dave Murphy, "George" Wright. I honor them and others.

  2. Not sure the "low ASVAB score" honors all that many. Plenty of folks who have fallen did so when they had LOTS of options, prospects and high test scores.
    Boat Guy

    1. Fair. Very astute. I should say based on the sample size of guys I went to high school with, most of them didn't do all that well.


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