Saturday, May 23, 2009

And Now It's Memorial Day 2009....

From Phil N. Jurus:



The crackle of rifles punctuated the air followed by the metallic sound of the weapons being unloaded and reloaded by the men in uniform.

Again a unison volley as the triggers were pulled and the rifles discharged followed by the cartridges being ejected and the guns reloaded.

Once more, there was the crack of gunfire and the click and swish of spent cartridges being dislodged from their chamber.
“ATTENNNN HUT!” was the next command.

There was a pause where the sound of muted sobs was all that could be heard. Then the painful sound of Taps being played by the bugler filled the air.

My friend and I, aged 6 or 7 at the time, were standing by the cemetery fence a couple hundred yards behind our homes. We watched until the hearse and all the cars filled with mourners drove away and the grave diggers filled the grave, took down the tent and laid the flowers on the fresh mound of dirt. Then we walked to the place where the small American flag had been planted in the earth.

We scoured the grass looking for the shiny brass shell casings, scooped them up and went back to one of our yards to play.

We didn’t understand much more than that a soldier who had gone to war and been killed was now buried in that place and we had some souvenirs of that event.
Soon there would be a star by the name of that person on the Honor Roll of those who served that had been erected in the front of our elementary school.

More than six decades later, men and women are fighting in a war in Iraq. More than Three Thousand Four Hundred have been killed and those graveside rituals are occurring somewhere almost every day.

My grade school playmate is dead. I no longer live near a cemetery. I no longer hear the sound of the rifle’s salute or the orders barked by the commanding officer, or the sound of taps, or the sobs of the mourners. I gather no spent shell casings from the graves. I see no Honor Roll in school yards that list the names of those who served and the names with stars beside them of those who died.

But I see their names, their ages, 19, 21, 26, 32, 39, 45, 53, and the thumbnail obituaries in the newspaper that tell how they died, the unit in which they served, and where they were based.

I see the photographs, “in silence and as they become available”, on the Evening News Hour on PBS. I see the faces, faces I never saw before and faces that no one will ever see again. In the pictures they are usually smiling. I am crying, inwardly and outwardly for the loss of all these lives.

I understand they died fighting in a war.
I don’t understand why they have had to die in “this” war.
I don’t understand why there is “this” war.
Its purpose is as empty as a shell casing.
The tears are my souvenirs.


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