Category Archives: Military
Because of the immediacy of a certain set of weird circumstances in which would-be misdemeanor activity of a certain individual – objectively speaking – could have jumped to a class “H” and then class “I” felony (here in NC), a cop from the other side of these USA was telling me sometime later about the meaning of some tattoos[!].
- The cop mentioned the biohazard symbol that I see all the time at the local hospitals and rehabs and nursing homes. It’s pasted on all the sharps receptacles, and was invented by Dow Chemical. It’s so prevalent that I don’t even see it anymore. The cop said that if it’s a tattoo it apparently means that someone is HIV positive. But maybe just where he’s from.
- The cop also mentioned a scorpion, which also apparently means HIV positive. But maybe just where he’s from. Elsewhere, I imagine that there must be a gang that uses a scorpion and the last thing they’re thinking of is HIV.
- Anyway, he also mentioned diamond tats, a number of them, diamonds in the shape of the “diamonds” on playing cards. Who knows what any of that means? I’ve not heard nor seen any explanation. Anyone?
After this conversation, I spoke with a prisoner, and he said that, in his area, again in an entirely different area of these USA, those kinds of tats did not have anything to do with HIV as far as he knew. And if they did, one would immediately want to make a distinction with how it is that someone came to have HIV. For instance a druggy “lifestyle” using used needles isn’t necessarily the same as an “alternative lifestyle.”
I rarely ask people about their tattoos. But I do. I would if I saw tear drops, which can reference even a number of murders. I asked a guy who stopped in front of the rectory asking for directions about his full body tattoos that reminded me of MS-13. He was fearful of letting his tats be seen, even wearing one of those girly shirts with the ultra-long-sleeves that are tied around the thumbs so as to cover the hands. But the tats spilled out onto his fingers and up his neck and face.
- Do I have any tattoos? No. I did get my hand stamped with red ink at the county fair in my home town as a kid saying I paid some sort of entrance fee. I also got an ultraviolet stamp on my hand while visiting my Shadow at a maximum security prison in Mexico, you know, to make sure it was me on the way out, since we look like each other and are the same age. But I digress…
- Was I ever tempted to get any tattoos? Someone said I might be entitled to get a pair of green feet on my bum out of thanksgiving for services rendered by the great PJs. However, that tradition in honor of those utterly unique first tier operators would surely not be inclusive of preventative measures provided by their overwhelming accompaniment of yours truly, right? The immediacy of a critical incident was not evident. So, no. I didn’t do it.
I discovered trying to do up fingerprints recently for NC-SBI and FBI background checks for getting my concealed carry with the sheriff that my “natural tattoos” (fingerprints) are pretty much worn away. I guess I’m older than I was at one time…
The only real imprint you’ll find with me is the permanent character of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders while I hope that, as Saint Paul says, any sanctifying grace will turn to glory forever in heaven. We’re already “branded”, if you will, for our Lord by our Lord. By this time it’s not something that covers over but the Most Holy Trinity shining out.
Yours truly on a day-off, of sorts. Smiling and what all. The gall. A snake-handler preacher man ruint with longevity. Way too snarky. Having waaaay tooooo much fun. And who ever heard of a day off for a priest anyway? Sounds demonic. Anyone who casts out Satan must be doing this by Satan, and is a devil himself, a downright snake in the grass. And… and… I’m the Son of a Devil Dog. So, that seals it.
While the USMC in general has a nickname of Devil Dogs, dad was a commander of the Checkerboard Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of gullwing F4U Corsairs (VMFA 312) each sporting six 50 Cals and having the logo of a Devil Dog carrying the same. But the idea that the Marines are Devil Dogs isn’t that they are demonic. Here’s a one minute recruiting commercial about that:
The idea of extreme violence of a Devil Dog is not that goodness and kindness and truth are suppressed. No no. Instead, it is to bring goodness and kindness and truth to those who are happy to receive it even if it means battling in hell to do it, and looking, for that reason, finally coming out of hell, very much like the devil himself for having fought battles in hell over against the devil, that serpent who, for all his bluster, has been vanquished by Christ. I mean, isn’t it true that Christ Jesus looked demonically criminal on the Cross for having battled all of that hell that was broken out all at once against Him on Calvary?
One of the greatest defeats of contemporary mankind is the loss of a sense of irony. We don’t see behind the truths plainly spoken to see… the truth! What to do when we are just learning to live with Him who is Truth, but who for all intents and purposes and constructions looks to be Untruthfulness. He did that for our sake, by the way, laying down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. I might have said that once or twice before… ;-) Jesus is very much the Devil Dog Himself. You don’t think so? A blasphemy you say? Let’s review something I’ve many times posted, but not in a while. It bears a re-reading. We MUST get a sense of irony back if we are to be Christian, if we are to have a sense of identity, a solid base from which to work, that is, a oneness with Christ Jesus, Himself Irony Incarnate, as it were, so to speak, a Devil Dog. Let’s turn to the great historian Hilaire Belloc once again, for, after all, we bear the burden of being naive, or, as he says, “young”, “pure”, “ingenuous”, so easily thrown into fear, unthinking, cowardly fear. Enough of that! Behold: irony!
“To the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power […] when the mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul.” [Hilaire Belloc, “On Irony” (pages 124-127; Penguin books 1325. Selected Essays (2/6), edited by J.B. Morton; Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958).]
If there’s any proof that I’m a Devil Dog, it’s that I love such irony in the face of my being the most naive, the “youngest”, the “purist”, the most “ingenuous”, the most stupid idiot in the world, unable to appreciate such truths until they smack me down with such extreme violence that I gotta pay attention. It’s like Thomas the doubting Apostle. I’m forced to put my finger into the holes the nails made in the hands and feet of Christ. I’m forced to put my hand into the side of Christ, where I touch that beating heart, still pierced open. “My Lord and my God,” I blurt out. The irony is, I’m the absolute last person who would ever say that. Not me. I’m the one who put those wounds there. But the truth, “vivid with ironical power”, shines the light, and makes me a Devil Dog too. Thank you Jesus, you who want to make us all Devil Dogs.
Pre-critical-incident forced psych lockup program for would-be active-mass-shooter domestic terrorists already underway? DARPA COMPASS
Google this: DARPA COMPASS. It’s the first entry. This started a while back. The confluence of information replacing the census citizenship question goes a long way to making this happen for those of whatever status in these USA. Algorithms of gaming theory and the OODA Loop can sort out who needs targeting. This seems to be the obvious reference of Trump’s reaction to the El Paso and Dayton shootings on Monday August 5, what his quick due process means. The psych lockup is a dumbed down version. The program usually just gives a target-name to a field operator who terminates the possible terroristic threat. The mere psych lockup for those in these USA makes the program seem a bit more acceptable as a way to do something about mass shootings.
Last year, July 30, 2018, was the 100th anniversary of death by sniper of forward field intelligence officer Joyce Kilmer. He’s personally the heroic example of what would become the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which would itself turn into the Central Intelligence Agency. I’m putting this up to encourage those looking for a break from the heat by coming up to the mountains and quietly hiking the trails of the memorial forest. Here’s the post from last year:
We had a memorial today, July 30, 2018, in the absolutely gorgeous National Forest dedicated to the memory of the great military operative Joyce Kilmer. Joyce, mind you, was a literary giant, compared even to G.K. Chesterton, certainly for his poetry. Look him up in Wikipedia. You won’t be disappointed.
Descendants of Joyce Kilmer were there. The VFW was there in force, including the State and National Commanders. There were bagpipes, the bugle for Taps, the 21 gun salute.
I also had a part to play, offering a few religious words about heroism. I then had the great privilege of reciting the entire Rouge Bouquet included below.
JOYCE KILMER: Memorial – Rev. George David Byers
July 30, 2018 – Centenary Memorial Service – Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Since Joyce Kilmer was a devout Catholic and since I’m the Catholic pastor of the local parish, I’ve been invited to say a few words to attempt to go the heart of who Joyce Kilmer is as a hero. Joyce’s Rouge Bouquet will then be read before a short prayer, followed by rendering honors and the Taps.
Joyce Kilmer was enthusiastically respected in all good friendship by his brothers in arms back in the day, a lively respect which continues today as we are now witnessing one hundred years later. Anyone who is profoundly immersed in their own times remains at one with us in all times. Joyce Kilmer is a hero because he leads us back to ourselves and who we are before God. Joyce’s poetical intervention about, say, any tree being awesome because of being just another tree, but made by God is an analogy bringing us into the lived reality of who any one of us is to be as a hero.
Like so many others in our topsy turvy society with wars and rumors of wars, in our day as people did in Joyce’s day, I have searched for heroism if not in all the wrong places then surely in all the wrong ways. Growing up in a military family, my father having been trained up at Parris Island as a Marine Fighter Attack Pilot in Guam, the Philippines, Japan, China and Korea, having been commander of the famed Checkerboard Squadron, I have bragged about him as my hero, perhaps making him too extra special. Joyce Kilmer knew there was a danger to making one tree more special than all the others, a danger of not seeing that we are all made by God, the danger of thinking that this other fellow is a hero so I don’t have to be one. That’s not the kind of respect a real hero wants.
At the same time I would go out of my way to greet any veteran I might see at a gas station or a supermarket or at church. I’ve learned NOT to say, “Thank you for your service,” as I would often get a half-hearted, or sad, or almost cynical if polite acknowledgment in return. To say “Thank you for your service” almost seems ungrateful to the very veteran before whom one stands, being thankful perhaps only for his or her service in unrepeatable circumstances so very far away, a fog of war that any veteran struggles to recount to anyone, a service which, therefore, is in danger of being forgotten if heroism is merely about things done, if heroism is just that specialized, that distant, that out of reach, my usual mistake of “he’s the hero so I don’t have to be one.”
To veterans then, I’ve learned NOT to say “Thank you for your service,” but simply, “Thank you.” The acknowledgment is immediate, sincere, one of appreciated solidarity. And yet, even in this thanksgiving there can still be something missing about the heroism Joyce Kilmer lived out, the heroism which won him the enthusiastic respect in all good friendship of his brothers in arms and of our own respect today.
An Army friend of mine who was taken up as a field agent of the CIA much along the lines of Joyce becoming a kind of distant forerunner of the best of our CIA operatives, reprimanded me, saying that I had much to learn about thanking any veteran. He said that a hero isn’t someone you thank so much as strive to imitate with intensity of service at whatever cost. That’s it, thought I foolishly. Striving to imitate intensity of service is a real compliment, a real thanksgiving, and goes a long way and is what any veteran would like to see from anyone. But it still isn’t the full story and is certainly not quite yet an appreciation of the kind of heroism lived out by Joyce Kilmer.
We’ve all heard veterans of foreign wars like Marcus Luttrell or Robert O’Neill say it; we’ve all heard our friends in Law Enforcement and Firefighting say it; I’m certain that most who are here today have said it, as heroes: “I’ve done nothing special.” And then they add what our Lord said we will all say should we make it into the gates of heaven: “I’ve only done what I had to do.” There are those who think that this is what humility is all about, misunderstanding this as some sort of self-deprecation. But they miss the point. This isn’t false humility to say “I’ve done nothing special.” It is to say in Joyce Kilmer’s analogy, that any tree is awesome among any other trees, each having been made by God, so that each tree, each person is to do what they have to do, what they’ve been given to do, what they’ve been called to do in whatever impossibly unrepeatable circumstances they happen to be in. We’re all called to be heroes.
What was so attractive about Joyce Kilmer to his brothers in arms and to us today is that he knew he had what we can all have by way of God: we can all have a love that is stronger than death, a love stronger than death. “Let me have the most dangerous assignment!” said Joyce Kilmer again and again. A love stronger than death given by God. That’s what we recognize as what we are all to have, a love stronger than death given by God; this is who we are all to be, one who lives out what we have to do, what we’ve been given to do, what we’ve been called to do in all our impossibly unrepeatable circumstances. What makes the hero is that which all can have, this God given love which is stronger than death. “Let me have the most dangerous assignment!”
So said the eternal Word of God the Father: let me have the most dangerous assignment; let me stand in their place, the innocent for the guilty, so that I might have the right in my own justice to have mercy on them. And we know what happened next: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life,” eternal life, a love stronger than death, the eternal Son of God, our warrior of goodness conquering evil because giving us of his love that is stronger than death so that we might also say: “Let me have the most dangerous assignment!” Jesus is the One hero, and we are all heroes in him, recognizing before this love that is stronger than death that is offered to us all, that we then do, in thanksgiving, what we have to do, what we’ve been given to do, what we’ve been called to do in all our own unrepeatable circumstances, as in Joyce’s day, so in our own. The thanksgiving that our hero veterans want to have is that we all become heroes.
My own prayer this day is that those who visit this forest, coming into contact with the eternal Creator of creation, might find out about the heroism of Joyce Kilmer, the heroism we can all have with that God-given love that is stronger than death, that love which is eternal. Only God can make a tree. Only God can make a hero. We thank God for all our heroes, begging that we might strive to imitate intensity of generosity by living out in our everyday circumstances, with enthusiasm, that love which is stronger than death. Thank you, Joyce. Thanks to all our veterans. Thanks to all our heroes. Thanks to Jesus for giving us a love stronger than death.
The Rouge Bouquet
In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
There is a new-made grave to-day,
Built by never a spade nor pick
Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.
There lie many fighting men,
Dead in their youthful prime,
Never to laugh nor love again
Nor taste the Summertime.
For Death came flying through the air
And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,
Touched his prey and left them there,
Clay to clay.
He hid their bodies stealthily
In the soil of the land they fought to free
And fled away.
Now over the grave abrupt and clear
Three volleys ring;
And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
The bugle sing: “Go to sleep! Go to sleep!
Slumber well where the shell screamed
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
You will not need them any more.
Now at last, Go to sleep!”
There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
Never fear but in the skies
Saints and angels stand
Smiling with their holy eyes
On this new-come band.
St. Michael’s sword darts through the air
And touches the aureole on his hair
As he sees them stand saluting there,
His stalwart sons;
And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill
Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
The Gael’s blood runs.
And up to Heaven’s doorway floats,
From the wood called Rouge Bouquet
A delicate cloud of bugle notes
That softly say: “Farewell! Farewell!
Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are
And your memory shine like the morning-star.
Brave and dear, Shield us here. Farewell!”
From the Catholic funerary rites:
Saints of God, come to their aid! Come to meet them angels of the Lord!
Receive their souls and present them to God the Most High.
May Christ, Who called you, take you to Himself; may angels lead you to Abraham’s side.
Receive their souls and present them to God the Most High.
Let us pray: We commend our brothers and sisters to you, Lord. Now that they have passed from this life, may they live on in Your presence. Amen.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
- LITTLE BOY: On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a 13 kiloton uranium bomb on Hiroshima. The decision had been made on August 4. No surrender from Japan.
- FAT MAN: On August 9, 1945, the United States dropped a 21 kiloton plutonium bomb on Nagasaki. The decision had been made August 7. No surrender from Japan.
- The purpose of the second bomb was to get across the idea that there was an endless supply of bombs. The bombs were, however, vastly different one from the other. That’s weird… Since no other bomb followed a three day pattern, so, by the 12th, it might well have been hypothesized that there were only two bombs of such enormity. Japan was willing to call the bluff, as it were.
Sure, it was all entirely devastating. But however important Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, I wonder if they were necessarily decisive as everyone says they were. Whatever about any military industry that was there, those two cities were civilian soft targets. Japan could still congratulate itself as to somehow imagine that they were winning, or should be and could be winning in the bigger picture, say, in the Philippines, regardless of losing important battles in the past there as well. Japan did not surrender in the days following the second bomb, and the days would drag on. They would not surrender until August 14, 1945, fully five days after the second bomb with obviously no third bomb falling. I’m guessing there had to be something else to push the decision besides any taunting from the USA.
News would finally come of what might be called a third bomb, that is, what happened in the Philippines on August 10, just one day after the second bomb. This news of a “third bomb”, though nothing nuclear, would have been strategically the end of any hope of victory for the entire war. This “third bomb” did not involve any massive battle and was not hard fought. It was ridiculously insignificant compared to Little Boy and Fat Man. But what the USMC had done in the Philippines on August 10, 1945, heralded the end of Japanese aggression in the Philippines and decisively ended any possible hope of their continuing with their aggression. When they heard the news, they would have to surrender, and they did.
So, what is it that happened in the Philippines? Glad you asked. It’s a story in pictures. Here’s an original newspaper story that my dad had specially framed up. You can find others copies online. This is the actual newspaper:
Sometime before the dropping of Little Boy and Fat Man, the Imperial Japanese Army Officer Lieutenant Minoru Wada was captured by the USMC on Mindanao of the Philippines. He’s an American born Japanese fellow, who, as was the practice at the time, grew up and went to school in Japan. He was American, but was taken into the Japanese Army as the Japanese aggression began. He betrayed Japan, although with the best of intentions, so as to lower casualties in Japan by ending all hope for Japanese victory in the Philippines, and thus ending all hope for Japan to be victorious in their overall war of aggression, forcing their immediate surrender. Army General Douglas MacArthur had long stated that the Philippines were absolutely strategically necessary for Japan.
Minoru Wada might well have been told of the intransigence of Japan in the face of Little Boy and then, as the mission dependent on his betrayal was being readied, he might have well been told of the dropping of Fat Man without any reaction from Japan. The pressure must have set him to shaking quite literally. This betrayal, surely saving even millions of lives, would bring Japan to give up. This was not a betrayal then, at all. He did the right thing for humanity. There was zero loss of life on the American side. All they did was to take out the well hidden headquarters of the Imperial Japanese 100th Division and their communications center, ending effective Japanese military action. Four days later, Japan did indeed surrender.
Now, I suppose I’ll get blasted for saying such an outlandish thing. The events of Little Boy and Fat Man over against this little operation in Mindanao are incomparable. Yes, but the Japanese military machine seemed to be calling the “bluff”, if you will, of two bombs so different from each other and therefore likely being unique in production and not at all exemplars for an unlimited supply of similar nuclear bombs. The arguments among the top brass must have been intense, with anything else that might happen being that which would lead them to surrender. They were risking so very much. The loss of the effective control of the Philippines was simply too much to bear in the wake of Little Boy and Fat Man.
Odd thing about Minoru Wada, he had worked closely with my dad, George Byers Jr, who was flying for the USMC VMB 611 at the time in the Philippines, on Mindanao. My dad is to be seen in the upper left of the bottom group of four pictures in the newspaper story above. In that picture he is the one in the lower right (the back of his head, but unmistakable to me, his son!). Dad totally respected integrity and honesty, and what he saw in Minoru Wada would have captured his imagination. He put the original photos of Minoru Wada in frames and hung them up around the house, including the original newspaper story (the actual newspaper). Dad pointed out to me as a little kid the bomber with the “stick” of bombs falling. So, I gotta wonder who the pilot of that particular PBJ-1 seen out the window is. These pictures are from our family home back in the day…
Dad was just 21 years old in 1945. Here’s a picture of him with the typical aircraft of the VMB 611, that is, the North American PBJ-1 (either “D” or, probably “J”) medium bomber airplane which sported twelve to thirteen .50 caliber machine guns, and carried bombs, depth charges, 5-inch rockets, or an aerial torpedo:
Placing him in the Philippines at the time is a citation he received for an Air Medal. I only just happened to get this just the other day. Yikes!
And the Air Medal with the numeral 5 for that citation:
The Air Medal for numbers of missions surprises me. I’m guessing he’s done hundreds over the many years. Antiaircraft fire is nasty for sure. He’s becoming a decorated member of his squadron at the same time as Minoru Wada is captured and brought on side. I’m sure dad’s meeting up with Minoru Wada was very formative of his own character for the rest of his time in the military, which was to be a long time indeed. Minoru Wada’s name was changed for him. It is unknown if he is still alive. If he is, I would like to thank him for what he did.
One of the last things VMB 611 did was to accompany (for navigation purposes) F4U Corsairs to Shanghai, China. The VMB 611 was shutting down, and dad joined up with the occupying forces in China (getting another medal for that), and then went on to head up the Checkerboard squadron in Japan and Korea, with the medals piling up as he went along.
The abundance of medals, I’m told, is most extraordinary, as in those later years the flow of medals slowed down to almost nothing.
What have I learned from dad? Just be faithful to what you need to do in the circumstances right before you, step by step. Just do it. Do it fiercely. No apologies. No compromise. Ever.
This is never easy. But do it. Not everyone is given over to doing things right. The VMB 611 had an extremely rocky start. Horrible. Like hell. It seems with people doing what they shouldn’t be doing. Putting hundreds of our own at risk. Horrible. Horrible. I’m hoping my dad missed all that. I don’t know. Finally they got established, did what they needed to do – thanks Minoru – thanks dad – lots of great crew and pilots – and just that quick they were disbanded. Take the opportunity to be faithful while you have it. In this case, they were there to do a simple flight that would assist Japan to surrender forthwith, saving millions of lives. And I’m sure that was by far the easiest flight any of them had ever done in their careers. Easy or difficult doesn’t matter. Just be faithful. Always. Do it fiercely. No apologies. No compromise. Ever.
One of our fishermen in the parish, who takes care of the fisheries, that is, gave me his pellet rifle the other day complaining that the scope was off a bit, and therefore he could no longer successfully shoo away, as it were, the kingfishers, who eat enormous quantities of fish, the crows, who only eat the eyes of the fish and leave the rest, and the blue heron, for which he has a special permit. He knows nothing about zeroing in scopes. Neither do it. I might know something about Glocks, but that’s it. “I’ll get ‘The Hog,'” said I.
“The Hog” wears a “Hog’s Tooth” on paracord around his neck. A “Hog’s Tooth” is a 7.62x 51mm NATO round usually shot out of the M40A6, he being a Marine Sniper with plenty of confirmed kills. He lives just down the street. He was happy to take the pellet rifle for such a good end to zero it in. He did it right away, and it works great says the fisherman.
Meanwhile, “The Hog” and I got to talking, and the conversation came around to my dad, as it does when speaking of all things USMC. Being a history buff, he wanted to have a look-see at dad’s medals list and the actual medals that Mark Meadows and the great Beverly were able to obtain for me (after decades of no success with just me trying).
And that brings me to today…
- Today, June 11, is the anniversary of the slaying of Father Kenneth Walker. But, more on that later.
- Today, June 11, is the anniversary of the death of my dad. But, more on that later.
If, after watching that short video – I laughed all the way through it – you’re wondering about what the incredible story must be behind this, click the link just above and that will list some more videos about what the Congressional Medal of Honor was for in the forsaken frozen mountains of NOKO in 1950. This guy purposely crashed his plane to come to the aid of his fellow pilot who had been shot down. But read or watch the story.
I’m especially interested in this because this happened to my dad, also Department of the Navy, but this time with the USMC fighter-attack Corsair Checkerboarders. Dad was also shot down, crash landing, and was rescued by his fellow Marines at incredible risk to themselves. I’m forever grateful! These guys are rightly called the greatest generation.
At Myrtle Beach I saw things with both mom and dad that had a huge effect on me. They would bring me to the US Air Force Base (the bones of which are pictured above) and have me eat with the pilots and such. The base would soon close because of a decision to ditch the A-10s. Ironically, it was just now decided in 2019 to upgrade this close air support fighter especially loved by the guys on the ground.
In the speech to announce the closing, the officer said: “It’s the end.” My mom copied that out in longhand, again and again, on bits of paper that I would find later here and there, noting the context of the closing and the name and rank of the beloved speaker. The closing acted for them as the closing of an entire era that was held in living memory, but that too, they knew, would soon pass as well. “It’s the end.”
The two of them used to sit at the end of the runway when it was still military and watch the guys practice their take-offs and landings amidst fancy stuff in the air: warthogs and other jet fighters, a great show instigating lots of memories for dad in one way (surely calling to mind those who didn’t live to die another day back in WWII and the Korean War) and for mom in another way (surely calling to mind those many millions who were murdered by the Nazis).
Dad would later have some health incidents for which I was present in Myrtle Beach. Mom would die at Myrtle Beach in a place pictured above. Here’s a google-map shot of some items placed in an outdoor museum the South side of the runway, which, if you have good eyes, you can find in the picture at the top of this post:
Here’s a fantastic video with some flying action shots, including the Vought Corsair. How they’ve changed since the gull-wing Corsairs dad flew!
Both mom and dad had been through some great spiritual retreats at Mepkin Abbey in their last years. They had taken great notes and spoke glowingly of the retreat master. And for that I thank the dear Lord. “It’s the end”? No. They both learned that, in fact, as the Funeral Mass Preface has it:
“Life is changed, not ended.”
Good speech, that, on Memorial Day, at Arlington National Cemetery. An even greater speech, also at Arlington, but on Veterans Day, Armistice Day, follows:
Long before this, way back in the day, Ronald Reagan narrated this original pieces of General George Patton. Note that the first thing he does in a victory speech is to remember the fallen. Lest we forget.
I suppose I’m eccentric, but for the moments when the cemetery was empty of visitors, I drove the paths and side-paths slowly, stopping often, while letting the bagpipes belt out on the car speakers. I’m sure the angels didn’t mind. It’s quite the powerful video.
Early this morning I took a trip up to Valleytown Cemetery and cleaned up some of the more poorly taken-care-of gravestones, replanting fallen flags of the veterans. A parishioner happened by and we prayed together in the lower end of the cemetery.
Way back up top, not far from the chapel, one will see this marker above. Look closely at the dates. That’s SIXTEEN years old, folks. Sixteen. What was I doing at 16? I wasn’t laying down my life for anyone. This guy was laying down his life for us all at 16.
Do you want to know what a Gold Star family looks like? Look at the inscription on the marker of the picture below, and then look at the dates…
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.