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May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Tears

One of the guys I went to HS with, Anthony Tormey, who, after a career in the military went on to found and currently is CEO of the Leader Development Institute, did a post on facebook of the young men from our hometown who died in Vietnam.

One of those young men, who died in 1968, is buried right next to my dad, who died four years later.

As an 11 year old girl, who was pretty much traumatized by war reports and body counts on the nightly news, seeing that white military headstone, alone on a gentle hill, made me sad. I realized he was only 19. That was “grown up” to me, but still I knew it was too young to be dead.

And so every time I’d go to the cemetery to see Dad, I’d say hello. He was PFC Kenneth R. Totten. And every Memorial Day I pray for him, this unknown young man.

I soon grew older than he ever did. Now my own son is older than he ever was, but still I pray, and still I say hello when I am back in my hometown and go visit Dad’s grave.

Today Anthony said he googled about the local men killed in action, and only found a picture of one, Capt. Edward Starr, a handsome young man, also too young to die, not yet 30.

Then I googled, too, and found a memory page to young Kenneth Totten. His friends and relatives had posted–they called him Kenny. Makes sense for such a young guy.

But then I saw a picture, and all of a sudden, this young man who had been a part of my life for 44 years, sprang into focus. I burst into tears. Now he is a real person to me.

He’s so handsome in his Marine blues. So damn young.

Kenny, your sacrifice is remembered and praised and mourned.  When I pray for your eternal rest, I add my prayers may no more babies have to die in war. A futile prayer as long as humanity stays the way it is, I know, but I am the eternal optimist.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. And thank you for your sacrifice.

The picture is from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

 

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February 17, 2014

It’s Not Just a Sale Day–Presidents’ Day 2014

My inbox is full of sale offers–it’s Presidents’ Day–shop! Shop! SHOP!

 

I get sick of it.  Why is everything in this country an excuse to go shopping?  No, I know why. That was a rhetorical question.  This is supposed to be a day to remember Presidents Washington and Lincoln and frankly, any others you’re particularly partial to, I guess.

 

One of my favorite presidents is Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president, Republican and founder of the Progressive Party.  I’m thinking had I lived under his presidency my view of him may not be so rosy, but so many of his words have resonance for me.

 

Like these: “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”

 

Those points about prosperity, safety, soft living and get rich quick are ringing bells.

 

When did duty, discipline and hard work become negative words?  When did laziness become a virtue? Every semester I hear students tell me they are “lazy” as if it’s something to be proud of. No shame, no embarrassment.  I don’t want people to hang their heads in shame, but a little perspective, please?

 

Poor Teddy is often depicted as a macho man, “cowboy,” and hawk. And he was. But he’s consistently ranked as one of America’s greatest presidents–he busted up monopolies, made laws to protect people from corporations, fought to keep food and drugs pure.  No one is perfect, and I’m not one who believes that leaders need to be perfect.  But what I love about Teddy is his no-nonsense approach to life.  He told it like it saw it. He was blunt. I love that.

 

Instead of shopping today (or realistically, maybe after shopping), spare a thought for those who tried to build this country up, save it, improve it.  Pick up a presidential biography, scan some history pages on the web.

May 27, 2013

We Must Remember

Filed under: heroes,military,New Broads,soldiers,war — by maggiec @ 10:20 am
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s Memorial Day in America, a day to honor those who fell fighting for America. When I was growing up this was a solemn occasion, and most of the time I was marching in a parade with the Girl Scouts, laying a wreath at one of the many memorial sites dotted through my town.

My family was full of veterans, but we were a lucky family. The last one to die was my grandmother’s fiance, killed in France in 1918. The man she ultimately married was torpedoed more than once during WWII but lived to tell the tale, as did all the uncles, aunts and cousins who have served all the way through Afghanistan and Iraq.

But all those who had served had lost someone, and as children we were not allowed to forget that. Yes, there would be a barbecue later in the day, but not until the solemn rites were fulfilled.

I don’t march anymore, but I do remember every year.  These days, our society has a troubled relationship with our armed forces and war in general. There are good reasons for questioning some of America’s latest wars, but never have I doubted the sacrifice of those who did go, who heeded the call and paid the ultimate price.

But as long as there are wars and our men and women are dying, I can not forget. I hope that in the future, generations will forget the horror of war and the war dead will be nothing but lines in a history book like the dead Peloponnesians are to us today.

But until then, I believe deeply that we must remember. It is only by remembering the sacrifice and the dead that people will remember the reality that is war. It’s not just like the videos. There are humans involved in the battles, not just avatars.

The day will come, someday in the far distant future, perhaps, when humans will stop fighting and realize that war is not the answer.  I tell myself this, and sometimes I actually believe it.

But as long as days like Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day are seen only as times for fun or shopping, this will never happen. The dead mean nothing to too many. And that is one of the most important reasons we must remember. So that those who died will not have died in vain.  So that there will finally, ultimately be a “war to end all wars” that doesn’t mean we destroy each other in a nuclear or biological disaster.

A time when we realize that peaceful engagement can and does work.

***

The first half of this essay is self-plagiarized from my other blog, Patchouli Haze, but I wanted to expand the themes here.

April 4, 2013

In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Filed under: heroes,New Broads,poetry — by maggiec @ 10:49 am
Tags: , , ,

I wrote this today. I felt I wanted to say something for a man whose ideals guide me every day.

 

“In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Early evening, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

From “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by Bono

 

Snippets of memory.

Only seven, but I know that name—

Reverend King.

With Bobby Kennedy, the Irish hope,

Peace and justice will come.

Mom and Nana’s view.

 

Dad’s very different.

No use for Kennedy. Or King.

Or Negroes.

(it was 1968, and he used a worse word)

 

Tears flowed.

For the man, the idea,

For the widow and children.

The beginning of the end,

Though they didn’t know that yet.

 

45 years later

Still fighting the fight.

There’s been change

But too slow, not enough.

 

Requiescant in pace,

Reverend Doctor.

We don’t forget.

We do the work.

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