May 30, 2005

Memorial Day Posting

In observance with the United States holiday of Memorial Day on Monday, May 30, I wish to express my deep felt gratitude, not only to all of our deceased American soldiers, but also to those still living, as well as for those of our Allies, whose blood mingled with our citizen-soldiers as they both fell together on the field of battle, and who now rest together until Messiah returns.

I would like to take the time to remember the service of three veterans who made an impact on my life.

The first is my own Father: he grew up in the corn fields of Nebraska, and had ambitions to become a doctor. When his country called, he joined up with the Air component of the Army and was assigned to the Alaska theatre as an aide in the medical corps, helping to receive and process the wounded who fought in the Pacific theatre. He was appalled, when he arrived, to see the condition of the system which processed and forwarded the medical records of the soldiers coming through: the quality of the follow up treatment depended vitally on good records being kept, and men had died because their charts were missing or not up to standard. He took it upon himself to whip the system into shape, did so, and was rewarded by being kept in Alaska, freezing his butt off, for the duration of the War: His commanding officer fiercely fought off transfer orders, arguing that my father was essential in making sure that men who had survived a jap bullet or bomb didn't die in a mainland hospital from screwed-up paperwork. After the war, he went to Medical School on the GI-bill, graduated, met and married my mother during his internship. He earned a reputation for extra-ordinary skill and became the Head Resident of a hospital in Norwalk, California. I regret that some of his later choices in life, as well as some of mine, prevented me from telling him how proud I have become of his service while he was able to understand me.

The second is my Father-in-Law: He was a Georgia farm-boy when the War started, and was determined to go with the best, so he joined the Marines, became part of the 4th Marine Division, and participated in the island hopping campaign manning an artillery gun at Tinian, Saipan, and Iwo Jima: He was on the island when the flag was raised. The dropping of the Atomic bombs spared him from invading the Japanese home islands, and he returned to Georgia to marry the best Mother-in-Law in the South. He is still with us, thank the Lord, and I have made sure he knows how much I appreciate him, as a veteran, a man, and as as great a replacement for a father that one has right or hope to expect.

The third was a good friend of mine, and who became almost like a father to me long before I even met my wife. Arthur ("Art") Mason didn't tell me much about his service, although I knew he was a veteran from the way he and the other two veterans in our Prison Ministry interacted. During a particularly difficult part of his life, I felt it necessary to go to his house and stay with him after a prison church service one Sabbath (Saturday) afternoon. Amongst other things that came out that afternoon, I found out that he had been in a unit serving as the spear-tip of Patton's 3rd Army when it entered Germany. He was doubtless one of the first Americans to enter a concentration camp. I assure you, when all you've known about a man is when you work with him in saving men's souls, and where you can tell the love he has for them in his eyes and his voice, the chill that goes up and down your spine when he looks at you and says, "Even after all these years, if I ever meet an SS soldier, I'd kill him." is unique because the voice you heard came, not from a man, but from Nemesis herself.

Art eventually retired and passed away many years ago, but never spoke again about what he saw during the war with the Nazis.


It is good to take time to remember these worthy men who served us while serving their Country. However, what is more important is not that we remember them, but HOW we remember them.

How do we do that?

By telling their stories to each other and to our children, as humans have done around campfires for as long as language and fire has been with Man.

And in doing so, we not only remember them, but gain strength from them.

Thus, when I tell them of their paternal grandfather, I will tell how a farm boy from the Nebraska plains realized, while shivering in Alaska in the service of his country and staring at long rows of cabinets, that a technologically advanced nation like his own lived on INFORMATION. That even though he wasn't under fire saving countrymen who had been struck by the enemy bullet, he HAD to do what he could to raise the quality of the information his nation's doctors and nurses needed to save those same men from dying in a hospital bed safe in his homeland. And he knew, deep down in his bones, that that would be a tragedy that was not to be borne any more lightly than the slaver's collar around a free man. In doing that job, and saving those men, that farm boy had to strive for and learn EXCELLENCE. That lesson enabled him to get through Medical school, open a practice in Southern California, and led eventually to a position as the Head Resident of a Hospital who earned his position, not by wealth or by influence, but by sheer, unadulterated competence.

He did his part to fight for the American way of life, and became one who demonstrated, by his own life, that the American Dream was not a chimera, but a bright and true reality.

And my boys will learn. And will Remember.

Unlike my father, when I talk to them of their maternal grandfather, they will have, in their mind's eye the old man who tinkered about the house, in both city and country. A man who could cook the best chili and beans they ever had. And if they ever wonder why he MADE them make their own beds JUST THIS WAY, and tested them with a quarter, I'll tell them that, when he was only a few years older than they were, he went to serve his country with the meanest fighting force that his nation and ours could field at the time: The United States Marines. I'll tell them of the island hopping campaign, of the fanaticism of the enemy, of the sands of the islands that drank the blood of his companions as they were cut down on the beaches. Of how he got deaf flinging shells of death toward the enemy, making sure that they didn't go too far and miss the enemy, or fall too short and hit his friends.

And I will tell them never to be ashamed of their nation because it learned to tear energy from the very core of nature, and unleashed slivers of the sun over two cities of a fanatical enemy who thought that suicide was an acceptable and worthy way to wage war. That far more people were saved in the long run than were lost in those brief moments when Hell showed its face among men.

One of those people was PaPa. And if he had died THEN, on a far-away shore, mommy would not have been. And if mommy was NOT, then they THEY would not BE either.

And they will learn. And will Remember.

And at the right time, when they are deemed capable of withstanding the knowledge that humans became demons during that time, I will tell them of a young man in their country's service who was fighting so far in advance of his countrymen that there were literally no American bodies ahead of him to take the enemy bullet. I will tell them that one day, that young man and his fellow soldiers walked into a camp deserted by the enemy, and beheld the bitter fruit of a man's ideology gone mad. Men, women, and children walking about like skeletons. The bodies of the dead piled up like cordwood. And heaps of ash everywhere.

And as he walked about ministering as best a boy from the Appalachians could, he was also a witness. And what he saw made him make a vow to the dead that he would forever be ready and willing to visit justice on any man who had been in the service of their torturers and murderers.

And when my boys ask why they should remember that young man's story, when he was not an ancestor, I will tell him that that young man grew up to be a winner of men's souls and a good friend. That he had told me of his vow himself, because he was a witness, and that he remembered, and he wanted me, who had not witnessed the camps, to know that they did exist, and that he had seen them, and that all that had been told about those camps and those who ran them by good and valorous men was true. All true.

And I will tell them that they MUST remember, for there are men about who want them to FORGET. Who want ALL of us, to FORGET, and NOT remember. They want us to believe that the camps did not exist, and that my friend and his platoon and countless others, and also the survivors of those camps, were liars and parties in a vast conspiracy. And they will taunt and sneer and demand that the witnesses come forth, counting on the long stretch of time for age and time to wear away at the numbers until no one can witness, because they would be dead.

But now, I bear witness that I knew one of the liberators, and he saw and passed the knowledge to me, and that I vouchsafe the testimony.

And because I remember, they must remember also.


Those are the three true stories of the Veterans that I knew, and that I will pass on to my sons.

And these are the three lessons. That their country was, and still is, a place of promise and opportunity, where the limits placed on them are not put on by other men, but arise from laziness, and can be lifted by hard work, perseverance, and a burning desire for excellence.

And that their countrymen know that such a country as theirs is special among the nations for the fact that such opportunity is available and attainable by all who are willing to pay with the coin of wisdom, learning, skill, perseverance, and hard work.

And that to preserve that special nation, they will not hesitate to accomplish incredible feats of science and technolgy to add to the strength of their fighting countrymen and mulitply the effects of their courage and patriotism. All to ensure that they come home safely to enjoy the fruits of the land for which they fought, and for which some of their companions died.

Their land. Their nation.

And because of those opportunities, and because of the courage and strength in arms of our fighting forces, we will never be reduced to walking dead skeletons, or to piles of ash, in the camps of the destroyers of men.

But only as long as we, and they, remember that it DID happen, and that it thus CAN happen again.

Instead, because of our current blessings that they will inherit, they are given a choice. They can choose to create the camps and live as demons, or they can choose to find and close the camps and hunt down and destroy the demonspawn who made them. Destroyers or liberators. The Hunted or the Hunters. The choice is theirs.

Choose wisely, my sons. Rare is the nation to whom Destiny grants such choices.

P.S.

To those who scream that Gitmo and other camps where terrorists are kept are just like the Nazi concentration camps, I declare my agreement that Bush is a moron for tolerating our armed forces for running concentration camps so incompetently that those released from them are FATTER than when they entered.

(What's that? The Nazis DIDN'T release prisoners from THEIR concentration camps?)

Posted by ptah at May 30, 2005 11:59 PM
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