Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.
The KS Star gave Boy Scout merit badge hunters a gold star on Sunday. Jeanne and I figured to visit the Union Cemetery, oldest one in KC, on Memorial Day just for the hell of it. Then I saw the KC Star front page had Boy Scouts out decorating graves of veterans there. And everyone using the words ‘Veteran’ and ‘Warrior’ interchangeably.
As it happens a lot of one-time Confederates are buried at the Union Cemetery. Once a person gets into the spirit of putting flags on graves, might as well send the troop out with Confederate battle flags, too. Most were one-time Confederates who died decades after the Great War of Secession, but there’s a monument over the mass grave of Confederate POWs who died in a prison camp near here. That one got a forest of Confederate battle flags.
I say this with some authority, though we took a pass on the Memorial Day visit. Went out there Sunday, Memorial Day Eve, instead. Though most of the burying that’s ever going to be done there has already happened, 55,000 funerals seems plenty for most normal purposes. And a surprising lot had flags sticking up from them courtesy of Boy Scouts. Back in the heyday of Union Cemetery veterans had a lot bigger wars to get drafted into.
Likely as not somewhere out there the Boy Scouts put German flags on WWI Germans who fought in the Big one on the wrong side before migrating to the US. Maybe even a few from WWII.
Because the only way past the post-WWII series of incomprehensible US military adventures in foreign lands with any hope of inspiring those Boy Scouts to enlist to buy a piece of one is to ignore the Wars and glorify the warriors. Dead or alive. Company clerks, regimental band trumpet players, helicopter mechanics. All heroes, all warriors, all guilty of conspicuous courage without having to do a damned thing to demonstrate it to anyone.
If you’ve never done anything worth mentioning in your entire life and never will, visit your Army recruiter. Gets you a flag on your grave after everyone’s forgotten everything else about you.
A lot of old US Veterans have to be getting a lot of secret laughs about this in the privacy of their home bathrooms before they hoist their trousers, pluck their galluses over their shoulders, and carefully place their cammy ball caps with VETERAN over the visor onto their gray pompadours.
Only recently I got to visit the Arlington Cemetery, where I ‘found’ JFK’s family, the Space Shuttle crews, the surprising Audie Murphy and so many others my son and I picked by chance. Later, at the Vietnam Memorial, we actually found someone with his same rare name, and I even thought about reaching out to his family, but thought it better later. In all, I was taken by this thought of how much of it has been lost in the ritual and the obligatory sense of awe about their sacrifice, which yes, includes thinking about the banality of calling everyone a hero. For if everyone is a hero, then no one is. Then you see a Vet touching that wall and your cynicism and even your critical thinking all melt away. For a moment, even if vicariously and most definitely not deservedly, you share in silence a bit of that endless pit of grief and longing, two sentiments I’ll always carry with me regardless. That goes fast, or has to, before your son of another time asks you whether you’re crying ‘again,’ lest us not pass as softies and all that. Still you wonder when Thurgood Marshall, also at Arlington’s, set himself to be, or was forced to, what he became, if being laid down there and being called a hero was part of his aim. Jack had visited the place a few times before, and it’s arguable that he ever thought he too would join them all there. It’s a question I have to muster the courage to ask my father in law, who’s approaching 90, whether he’d like to be taken there or be laid next to his wife, who was always against being buried under a simple, spartan cross only. Anyway, I’m sure I’m not saying anything original here but thanks for bringing a fresh perspective to it. Best.
Hi Wesley. Interesting the Audie Murphy thing. His lifesize portrait also decorates the entrance to the Texas State Capitalism Building because he was a Texas boy. My mom grew up with him in Celest Texas, out near Hogeye, though once he left he never claimed the place. Kid hard a dirt poor kicked around something awful chilehood you wouldn’t wish on anyone. After the War they tried to claim him for Celeste, Greenville, Hogeye, but he wasn’t having any of it. Anyway, he killed a lot of Germans and demonstrated conspicuous courage at considerable risk to himself. If that’s what makes a hero I reckons he is. But even with all that I suspect and I’d bet he’d have agreed that his sacrifice came before he went into the military just growing up where he did how he did when he did. And that the burning tank mowing down Germans not too different from himself was just his ticket out of there, no sacrifice at all. The antithesis of sacrifice, in fact.
I agree the wall phenomenon is a thing to witness. And I agree it means something, though I’d pause long before I came to believe I knew what that meaning is. Gracias, J
Hi Jules, Yours is a memory and a feeling I’m not familiar with. Something I’m sure only those who have served and sacrifice can experience. I’m sure the upbringing of Audie Murphy is why he could do what he did. His earlier life prepared him for that job. Thankfully for our country we had him. Blessings, Mary
Mary: I reckons we all just do whatever we thinks is best. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong, and once it’s done it doesn’t matter which. Gracias, J