Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I have written much about Memorial Day the past few days. As you can tell it is a day that causes me to do a great deal of reflecting, on what is for some a subject that they do not know from personal experience. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. noted in his 1884 Decoration Day speech to fellow veterans of the Civil War:
“Comrades, some of the associations of this day are not only triumphant, but joyful. Not all of those with whom we once stood shoulder to shoulder–not all of those whom we once loved and revered–are gone. On this day we still meet our companions in the freezing winter bivouacs and in those dreadful summer marches where every faculty of the soul seemed to depart one after another, leaving only a dumb animal power to set the teeth and to persist– a blind belief that somewhere and at last there was bread and water. On this day, at least, we still meet and rejoice in the closest tie which is possible between men– a tie which suffering has made indissoluble for better, for worse.
When we meet thus, when we do honor to the dead in terms that must sometimes embrace the living, we do not deceive ourselves. We attribute no special merit to a man for having served when all were serving. We know that, if the armies of our war did anything worth remembering, the credit belongs not mainly to the individuals who did it, but to average human nature. We also know very well that we cannot live in associations with the past alone, and we admit that, if we would be worthy of the past, we must find new fields for action or thought, and make for ourselves new careers.
But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire.”
In a time where so few of us have served in war his words sound strange, and for me there is a melancholy that enfolds this day. I did not sleep well last night, lots of weird dreams, some associated with my time in Iraq, others dealing with surreal aspects of my other service, people events, some real, some drawn from the depths of my imagination, places that I must be too consciously afraid of to go.
So today I am going to take in a baseball game. Our local AAA minor league affiliate for the Baltimore Orioles, the Norfolk Tides, are playing at noon. After that Judy and I will go and meet a friend at our local watering hole. Baseball for me is a safe harbor from my fears and my melancholy, so I wish you a good Memorial Day, please do not forget in all the fun why we set this day aside.
“It’s funny isn’t it. He’s dead, I’m crippled, you’re lost. Suppose it’s always like that. I mean war.” Flying Officer David Campbell played by Richard Burton in “The Longest Day”
I came back a different man from Iraq. It seems that for me with every passing year Memorial Day becomes more of a melancholy observance. It is a weekend and observance that I feel deeply having lost friends in war and served in Iraq as well as Operation Enduring Freedom. It is also a day in which I feel more and more disconnected from the vast majority of my fellow Americans. I don’t know, but just from my observation it seems that for most Americans the weekend serves as not much more than the end of the school year and the beginning of the summer holiday and vacation season.
I could be wrong, but it seems to me that for…
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