Remembrance/Veteran's Day

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Remembrance/Veteran's Day

Post by John T Mainer on Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:20 pm

Glory, defined by Websters as
1.a : praise, honor, or distinction extended by common consent : renown
b : worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving
2.a : something that secures praise or renown
b : a distinguished quality or asset

Each year at Remembrance day we see the clash between two schools of civilians, those who offer praise to those who served, both the survivors and those who fell, and those who object as they see the Remembrance as glorifying war. For those of us who have been touched by the fire of conflict, through service, or through family (in many cases through both), there remains a truth that neither side sees. Glory is the grave good of the fallen; they did not choose to fall, they chose to serve and tried with every fiber of their being to be one who returned to enjoy the citizenship their service paid for, but they bought not a life of accomplishment and growth, but death……and glory.

Glory is of scant use to those of us who returned. We have to learn to live with what we became in periods of intense stress, privation, boredom, frustration, and fear. We have to learn to live with the coping mechanisms that got us through the day then, and become a problem for us “fitting in” now. We have to learn to talk to people who may as well be from another planet, for their understanding of this world differs so greatly from our own. We have lives to reclaim, lives to rebuild. We have new challenges to take on, new experiences to enjoy. We have time. Those who fell do not.

I have held my three daughters when they were born, seen them grow, known some bad times along the way, but so many memories that shine far brighter than gold, that I would not trade the worst day of parenting for the best day without children. I did not know as a young immortal that this would become the centre of my world, for a young man and young soldier has little but vague dreams of what hearth and home will mean for him someday. Those who returned with me have gone on to learn all the roles that life would hold for us besides warrior. Some of us progress into chieftains or godhi’s more or less without noticing, simply because that is where the road that made us warriors often leads. We set out to be warriors with the idea that this was the pinnacle of existence, the ultimate challenge, the goal of true men (and many women these days as well).

War is evil. War is like chemotherapy, it damages all of those it touches, and at best is miserable, punishing, and nearly unendurable. Of course, war like chemotherapy is often the less bad of two alternatives available, it is at best a necessary evil. To serve is to put aside your rights, put aside your dreams and your independence, to surrender yourself to become not a weapon, for that is trite nonsense, but one link in the shield-wall, one spear in the phalanx, one cog in a machine that can literally change the world. In the military it is not about fighting so much as it is about absolute focus and dedication to a single goal, to being a part of a single focussed effort. To serve with the military in the field is to see the power of human will reshape the planet, move mountains, turn rivers, break nations, and turn chaos and destruction into something approaching order with the quick and dirty ferocity that is the military’s bread and butter. For many of us, our service took us to the limits of what we could become, and so far past our understanding of human limitations that we can no longer really understand who we were before our service. We are forever changed, and while the cost of operating at that high and focused a level can be terrible, it is also seductive and exhilarating.

The fallen we served with were with us at our strongest, shared our greatest challenges, were our equals (as some cold part of us judges those around us in our daily lives seldom can be), and then they were gone. We got out, got old/bald/fat, got soft, went through the trials and challenges of adapting to life in the valley when you finally come down of that desperate rocky peak of performance. They never came down off that mountain. They remained at the peak, untouched by age, unmarred by time. We left them in the cold, we left them alone. We came back down the mountain to hearth and home, to peace and plenty, but can only remember them still alone atop the mountain, at the proud peak of their power, and in the shattered wreckage of the grave. We cannot give them the joys we knew after, we cannot share with them the peace we struggle to find for ourselves. We can’t let them see the thousand dreams they shared with us, because the fell before they could bring them to life. We can give them only this; glory.

They did not ask to die. They did not choose to die. They had dreams, loves, hopes. They swore the oath we all did, and chose to pit their strength against the world because our folk asked it. They bitched and complained, laughed, goofed off, and probably figure in enough stories ranging from mildly embarrassing to utterly unbelievable to scandalize a generation of churchgoers, but stress and boredom are fertile fields for those with both wit and will to function in a world whose pressure is trying hard to crush you. They were the best of us, and then they were gone. They were the best of us because we who survived them shall keep their memories bright, their deeds fresh. They offered their service, but gave instead their life. We who returned did not. We cannot give them the memories they were not here to make, we cannot bring to life the dreams they shared with us. No gift have we to offer in its place save this; glory.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we gather at the cenotaph and enact a most holy rite. Ignore the priests and politicians for they would make of our dead a monument to their own agenda, when seldom would those who fell have scant reguard for such. There is a holy book, and it is read not by priest, but by brothers. Not by our kings, nor our gods, but by our brothers shall the einherjar be summoned. Before the moment of silence an iron voice will call the role, name by name of the sons and daughters who marched away and did not return. As the names ring out, you can feel the presence begin to beat upon the air, the memories of those you have known and lost become brighter, the feelings you keep walled away come forth. At last the list is finished, and the old soldier raises his head and barks a final command;
“Sir, they do not answer. We will remember!”

They are the dead. They did not choose to fall for us; they chose to stand for us. They agreed to give their sweat but gave their blood. Praise we give them, thanks we offer them, and glory to keep their memories bright, to warm the cold of the mound. It is not enough, but it is all we have.

Cpl John T Mainer
744 Comm Regt (Ret)

Fiat justitia ruat caelum
"Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."
John T Mainer

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Re: Remembrance/Veteran's Day

Post by allthegoodnamesweretaken on Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:10 am

I suppose that I would qualify as one of the civilians that you speak of.

I do not abhor war. War is just the emphatic punctuation on the end of a tried action of diplomacy. The translation of "no means no" to the interaction of nation states.

However, I cannot say that I offer praise to those that serve or have served, just for the act of serving. In an armed forces as vast and diverse as the one that we have, and in a culture as morally bankrupt as the one that we have, we are bound to have persons that join the armed forces for what I consider less than ethical reasons.

There may be a smaller spectrum that what we see in the civilian world, but, IMO soldiers are going to fall into two basic subgroups. Those that are warriors, serving with honor, and those that are thugs. Those that are little more than bullies with a government sanction. I do not see these as deserving honor, but will not label the broad group of those that are soldiers as either one or the other.

Those that have died, however, are beyond this distinction or any point that was ever useful in making it. Although I do not always agree with the causes as picked by the state, those causes do not reflect upon the character of the men and women that serve, and it is as dishonorable as anything that they may do to use their sacrifice to argue a point against the cause that the state says they must support.

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