Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
The Poet John Donne wrote:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Today my base remembered the 94 men and women who deployed from here after September 11th 2001 who did not return. My role was purely advisory this year, unlike past years where I have been deeply involved in the service. The chaplain I assigned to coordinate this ceremony in conjunction with our base command triad, our Public Affairs Officer, and the tenant units did a remarkable job. Chaplain Charlie Mallie did a hell of a job herding cats and pulling off a flawless ceremony. I know, because nearly every day for the last two weeks I went to his office and let him vent. Honestly, I think he did better than I did the last two years.
Our ceremony involved tolling the bell for each of the 94 men and women as their names were read and their pictures shown. I knew, served, or trained with a decent number of these men and women. As I remembered them, I remembered other comrades who have sacrificed their lives in this forever war, and those who died of wounds or ended their lives after returning from war. Those names and faces are forever with me. They are my brothers and sisters.
It is hard to believe that I had been in the military 20 years when it began. I have a nephew who is within a few weeks of graduating from Marine Corps boot camp who was less than a year old when it began. He’s a hard charger, I got a letter from him today, he is so motivated to excel, he wants to be the best. He’ll be a great Marine and I am proud of him. I can see the growth in him since he first reported. I only pray that any future Commander in Chief will be worthy of him, obviously the current one won’t, and I pray that Trump will not send us into even worse wars, wars that my nephew might might have to fight, and could conceivably be kept on active duty to support. I don’t have to walk well to make notifications to families.
As for Trump and his acolytes I only can echo the words of Ernest Hemingway wrote in his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls:
There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.
As for me, I found out officially that I won’t retire until next year in order to get my medical issues resolved. I am glad for that. I do want to finish up strong, but I digress…
Memorial Day is not about those who currently serve, or those who have left the service and still live. It is about those who for whom today the bell tolled, 94 from our base and about 7,000 others, not counting those who died after they left the service, of which there are far too many.
It is also for all of those who died in all the wars since the American Revolution. This is about them. Thank them, not me, and certain do not thank President Trump if he chooses to pardon convicted and accused war criminals this weekend, something that will forever stain the reputation of the American military, and will lead to worse, but again I digress, I cannot imagine a U.S. President pardoning convicted war criminals, but President Trump is special.
When I went do do my aquatic physical therapy this week, I parked in the hospital’s main parking garage and walked through the old cemetery on the hospital grounds. It is the resting place of American Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, some Confederates, Russians, Germans, British, and sailors from other countries, quite a few unknown. It is humbling to walk through such a place. It is hollowed ground, and it is a place to remember and put things in perspective.
For most people this Memorial Day will be a weekend of ball games and barbecues, parties and platitudes, but honestly, it is for them for whom the bell tolls and Taps blows. But remember for whom the bell tolls this weekend, I know that it tolls for all those who died, it tolls for the known and the unknown.
2 responses to “For Whom the Bell Tolls: It Tolls for the Dead we Honor this Weekend”
I humbly ask that your followers Remember this, too:
That this Day was paid for, in blood and pain and fear. This Day was paid for with all that might have been, not of nations but of human beings. This Day was paid for by the very best of us, those whose lives we are made less by the losing. This Day was paid for, in full.
So go. Go and play at the lake, the beach, or the pool. Have a cook-out or a picnic or a pot-luck. Be with your friends and your family. Laugh. Play. Forget work and toil and worry. Today, enjoy. Make love. Tell bad jokes. Tell good jokes. Live.
Because today is paid for in full. No money can redeem what is given you today. No overtime will purchase a moment more. No order, command, wish, or plea, can reverse the payment, undo what has been done.
But for a moment, amidst the celebrations and excursions of this day, I ask you to stand still, there amid the many joys you have been given, and reflect on what that cost those others. Think about the awful choice they faced, and how much courage it took them to make it. To go forward. To go into the deadly danger. Not to run away. To do what must be done.
Then carry just a little bit of that knowledge with you going forward; just a remembrance of that sudden dropping feeling in your gut. So that the next time you come to a crossroads—when you know that speaking up or speaking out will bring hard words, or cost you a chance for a promotion or a raise…perhaps eve your job—the certainty that others gave all may give you pause, and help you take the breath or step or pause, and do what is right.
Never forget that others made that same choice, to stand to the line, to do what was right, and they died for it. Think about that, for a moment, while you enjoy a day set aside to memorialise our dead by living life to its fullest. It is the very least that you can do.
For my guys.
Thank you and Amen.