Sunday, May 28, 2006

Memorial Day

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It was originally called "Decoration Day" because it was the day the living decorated the graves of those who had died in battle.

I heard an interesting opinion piece on NPR yesterday, suggesting we redirect our memorial day energies from big sales and barbecues back to honoring fallen servicemen.

I've always been a pacifist. I was raised in the Quaker tradition of nonviolence and conscientious objection. I don't like war, and believe it should be avoided if at all possible. I believe we will someday evolve beyond using violence to solve our differences.

Having said all that, I have huge respect for the young men and women who voluntarily join the military and put their lives at risk, and lose their lives in the line of duty. Being against war does not mean being unsupportive of the men and women in uniform, at least in my case. I hold the leaders responsible. I am in awe of what the servicemen and servicewomen are willing to do. And I grieve for those who have lost their lives so young.

On this memorial day, I will thank and honor the fallen and pray for greater wisdom for the rest of us.

This is a poem written by an American soldier and poet Brian Turner, who served for seven years in Bosnia-Hezegovina and Iraq. Mr. Turner reminds us that war has more than one way of taking life.


It happens on a Monday, at 11:20 a.m.,
as tower guards eat sandwiches
and seagulls drift by on the Tigris River.
Prisoners tilt their heads to the west
though burlap sacks and duct tape blind them.
The sound reverberates down concertina coils
the way piano wire thrums when given slack.
And it happens like this, on a blue day of sun,
when Private Miller pulls the trigger
to take brass and fire into his mouth:
the sound lifts the birds up off the water,
a mongoose pauses under the orange trees,
and nothing can stop it now, no matter what
blur of motion surrounds him, no matter what voices
crackle over the radio in static confusion,
because if only for this moment the earth is stilled,
and Private Miller has found what low hush there is
down in the eucalyptus shade, there by the river.

PFC B. Miller
(1980-March 22, 2003)


anafaran said...

Dr. Peg,
War is bleak. That's undeniable. I can't blame a soul for wanting to take their life in the war arena, especially if one is depressed going into it. PFC B. Miller had a layer cake of evil served up to him. We're not doing enough to help our young people in the battlefield. I'm a hypocrite to be sitting around complaining about ridiculous things while young Americans die far from home.
I know a professor at a major university who had a stroke recently. The stroke annihilated the ability to read. The idea of it would drive one to despair, especially because the professor was a tenured English professor. However, the stroke did not impair the ability to tell stories nor did it disturb the memory.
While visiting this gentleperson, I became fascinated with a bowl of handpainted Easter eggs on the living room mantle. I broke down as I heard the story behind them. A lady gave them as a gift after the stroke. They didn't belong to her but to an acquaintance. She was depressed you see. She lost her husband to cancer and thought that she had nothing left to live for, but she kept going for a while because for sure her three married children would soon have children and that filled her with hope. The years went by and no grandchildren did come. So she killed herself.
Well, as I examined the eggs she painted, I marvelled at the uniqueness of each and every one. There were some much more ornate and intricate than the others. It was as I delighted over each and every one that the professor related the story to me about the painter of the eggs.
She left something so beautiful here that it caused the tears to trickle uncontrollably from my eyes. I thought what a terrible waste of talent that this woman had killed herself. If only someone had been there to tell her that there were other children who would benefit from her artistic talent and view of the world. Her artistry was so delicate and perfect in the decorating of each fragile egg. I handled each and every one of those eggs in that bowl as though they were something far more valuable than a Faberge egg at a Sotheby's auction.
If war is a necessary evil, despair is an unnecessary one. My heart breaks for the mothers and loved ones of young men who are killed in war or who have taken their lives in war. War is a killer and certainly depression is one as well.

dr peg said...

anafaran - What a sad, sad story! Very moving. Thanks for sharing it.

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