Book Reviews - "Slow Burn" & "The Innocents" by Ace Atkins
Book Review - "Five Presidents" by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin

Memorial Day

The genesis of this post started many years ago, and I tend to edit and revise it each year.  Maybe one day it will do justice to the day and those I remember on Memorial Day. Crossposted at Laughing WolfPunchBowl1Showweb

Foster Powers USN, KIA 1945

Foster Powers USN, KIA 1945


To the God in Man displayed -- Where'er we see that Birth, Be love and understanding paid As never yet on earth!

To the Spirit that moves in Man, On Whom all worlds depend, Be Glory since our world began And service to the end!

Final stanzas, The Choice, Rudyard Kipling

Let me start with the end, instead of the beginning.  I am not asking that we make Memorial Day somber and solemn, a thing without levity or fun.  I know none who have served who would want that, particularly those who did not come home.  We should enjoy the day and the weekend in their honor, so that they and the reason for this day are not forgotten.

My Dad did not like to make a big fuss on Memorial Day.  We did not troop to any cemetery, nor do I remember attending any services when young.  Looking back, I think it was still too personal and painful for him, for he remembered the fallen almost every day.  For he lost family, and helped bury his fellow Marines on various islands across the Pacific.  It was not something he wanted to share, to talk about, or for me to ever understand.  More than once when discussing funeral plans, he said that he simply wanted to be wrapped in a blanket and put in the hole, as if it were good enough for the Marines in the Pacific, it was good enough for him.

For me, I'm not sure when Memorial Day became more than just a holiday.  I think it changing had to do with my wanting to know more about my Uncle Foster.  I never met him, as he was killed in one of the last torpedo plane raids on Japan.  As I learned of him, I began to learn of others, and the day took on more reality for me as I grew.  I discovered this year that the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC, an organization I feel needs to be scrapped and restarted) lists him as MIA in 1946.  How they got the date, I don't know, but it does not match the information I was given.

When told of the loss, Dad was supposed to meet with Foster's squadron commander who was on a ship nearby.  However, fleet movements prevented that, and Dad instead talked with him on the radio.  He was told that Foster's plane went down in a manner that indicated the pilot was dead (or unconscious), and that none of the crew made it out.  I still hope that one day his plane is found.  I've visited the Punchbowl, and seen his name on the memorial wall there.

It hurt me, badly, when as a child my father told me he hoped I would never qualify for membership in the American Legion.  As that young child, I did not understand why he felt that way, though I do now.  I understand better than he would have ever wanted, though I disagree with part of his position.

Memorial Day has grown for me, and it is much more than just my Uncle Foster.   I know part of it changed after 10/23/1983, and I had to begin remembering LCPL Bill J. Stelpflug.  In college, I knew his sister (a beautiful woman) and his mother, who was part of the English Department as a GTA if I remember correctly.  He and his brothers were a factor in the thinking of those of us who wanted to date his sister...  His sister was the subject of one of the first, and worst, photoshoots I ever did.  Never did share those photos, as they did not do her justice.

Today, it is the names of those who have fallen since 9/11 that I knew online and in life.   It became the names of those I came to know second hand courtesy of my embeds, men I wish I had known first hand:

Specialist Marieo Guerrero KIA 17 March 07
Captain Anthony Palermo KIA 06 April 07
Private First Class Damian Lopez KIA 06 April 07
Specialist Ryan Dallam KIA 06 April 07
A man I met first hand, and anticipated getting to know more than just briefly, is in my thoughts this Memorial Day:  Lance Corporal Jeremy W. Burris, USMC.
LCPL Burris died in Iraq during the time I was attached to his unit.  His vehicle was hit by an IED, and I was told that he got the others out, began rendering aid to them.  He went back to the vehicle to get some gear that would aid and comfort them, and was hit by a second IED.  The mission had been delayed because sandstorms had prevented Dustoff from being flown.  I knew the mission was out, and saw the Dustoff coming back in, and was photographing it when I realized why it had been out.  I dropped my camera on its strap and walked off, not realizing that I had been seen.  One of his buddies did see, and thanked me later for not photographing the aftermath (he was not onboard), and told me what had happened.  No greater love...
I also remember
• Staff Sergeant Christopher Moore
• Sergeant Jean Medlin
• Specialist David Behrle
• Specialist Joseph Gilmore
• Private First Class Travis Haslip
• Private Alexander Varela 
Again, I wish I could have known them first hand, and am honored to have been able to do a little something in their memory, and to help their brothers and one particular Gold Star Mother.  Rather than their deaths, I would that more would learn about the child they saved earlier in their tour...
For what seems like most Americans, this is another three-day weekend, the start of summer, and nothing more.  The reason for Memorial Day is lost, and the gulf between those who serve and the vast majority that don't adds to that.  My darker thoughts are that the vast majority are happy not knowing and would like to keep it that way as ignorance is bliss.  My warmer thoughts are that some education is in order, and that while some will fight any effort to learn and grow, many would be willing to do so.
I can think of no finer way to remember so many of the fallen, those I regards now as my fallen, than with good food, drink, and times.  Those I have known who have fallen this last decade plus would not want people to wear sackcloth and ashes for them, and would be pissed off beyond measure should any try to push that.  They just would not like to be forgotten, and it seems so many in our country would love to do just that.
So remember them.  Honor them by doing good food right, by toasting them with drinks held high, by laughing at stories about them, and doing something for the living.  Remember, also, the families and those left behind.  That's the way to do it, and to bring Memorial Day back in terms of a day of remembrance and thanks.  Let us not mourn their deaths, but give thanks that they lived, and honor them by remembering them, and all who have died defending this country, this day and many more.