veterans

pink boxers and war

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every year the memorial day holiday seems to come around with ever increasing speed. other holidays do too. it’s one of those getting older things. however, memorial day
is somehow a much more personal holiday to those of us who served in one of our never ending wars.

this first appeared a number of years ago and was re-run a couple of years ago. yeah, i have other tales of my time overseas like, the old west meets the old east, and others still unwritten. however, desire and and the muse must first meet for them to see daylight. which may or may not ever happen.

at any rate, happy memorial day to all who’ve served especially to all who gave everything. to my nam brothers and sisters, welcome home. once again.

jmh

while noodling around yesterday i came across the yahoo, and elsewhere, story of a young soldier over in the middle east who went to his firing position in his boxers and flip flops, during a fire fight.  seems like the secretary of defense, robert gates, is all a gog over the situation.  he’s happy about it.  well, it’s memorial day weekend or more to the point, dead soldier weekend, and i guess they needed to sound pro troopers and military.  plus, i’m sure folks everywhere are getting a kick out of the story. 

it makes me think back to my time in nam.  i’ve written any number of things about that experience here and other places.  if you are a regular, i have no intention of bothering you with details you may or may not remember.  if you aren’t a regular reader, you can always go through the archives or rummage through the vault.  or just wait for me to trot the old stuff out again.  but i digress. 

while attached to macv advisory team 48, in nam, we had this major on the compound.  he was either s-3 or s-1 or s-2.  military jargon for stuff.  not really important to this story.  other than the fact, he got his pink boxers all tied up in a knot about us peons and other soldiers hitting our firing positions in levi’s and flip flops, bermuda shorts, flip flops and no shirt(my personal favorite) or other variations of civilian attire, or maybe just our regulation gi boxers and flip flops, during alerts. 

yeah, civilian attire.  it was macv and they didn’t care what you wore on the compound if you weren’t on duty or working.  well, most of them.  any the ways, this particular major was not happy about the way we fell out during those alerts.  he made it his mission to see that we all hit our firing positions and bunkers in full regulation military gear.  yes, sirree.  no more of this civilian attire or gi boxer nonsense.  there was a war going on after all, and said war, demanded we be properly dressed for the occasion because mr charlie might not like it.  boy, howdy.   

said major, even held a few ‘practice alerts’ and those ‘practice alerts’ weren’t over until he personally inspected each position to see if things were being done to his strict liking.  yes, indeed.  practice alerts for dress code violations in a war zone.  no showing up with your weapon and ammo in boxers.  nope, not for that major.  not good enough.  thank you jesus.  thank you, lord, for some damn fine smoke and drink to help us all through the night.

well, we suffered through a couple of his practice alerts held in the middle of the night.  a lot of pissed off troops and lifers as well.  yeah, he wanted every swinging dick on board for his madness. 

as it turned out, things were very quiet during the time of his practice alert stuff and everyone passed with flying colors.  like what else were we gonna do?  frag him?  it was bullshit but it wasn’t worth a capital crime and/or offense. 

one night, a few weeks after all the hoopla about the dress code and fighting charlie, i was working the night shift in the commo bunker.  at the time, macv was using our commo bunker for their toc(tactical operation center) while their toc was getting a face-lift.  charlie or the nva, lobbed a few rockets or mortars into our general vicinity. 

the alert was sounded and it was all hands on deck.  everyone was to go to their alert positions and deal with whatever in full military uniform.  thankfully, due to the practice alerts, it was decided, by my signal sargent, my alert position would be in the commo bunker.  lucky me, i was already up, working, in uniform, where i was supposed to be and with my m-16 and ammo.  woo hoo!!

the incoming rocked my little world but i just opened my secret area door and casually leaned on the door jam to watch the deal go down.  a total lapse of military protocol but whatever.  i was probably somewhat loaded and had been listening to, ‘spooky tooth’, and reading porn at the time.  another breech of protocol i’m sure.

on a side bar drift, the secret area was a perfect place to have a nice non-legal smoke.  or take a nap.  we had it set up so even if you were dead an alarm of sorts would wake you.  though in hindsight it wasn’t necessary.  incoming was incoming and could wake a dead man.  count on it.

the drifts just keep on coming.  WD40.  the perfect weapon cleaner, for us lazy folks, was also a very good and efficient smoke cover-up.  better than incense.  yeah, ok.  i did take my m-16 down to the firing pin assembly at regular intervals and properly cleaned it.  so there.  i could be a good soldier if i felt like it.  my life depended upon it.      

at any rate, i was just waiting for orders and THE word to send something to somebody somewhere about something or another via my secure radio teletype.  real alerts were always something.  some worse than others.  but always angsty and an adrenaline rush regardless.  while i was standing in my doorway watching stuff, in came the major of dress code and practice alert fame. 

ah, yes, goddamn.  he was resplendent in his steel pot, m-16, ammo, un-tied jungle boots, gi issued undershirt and boxers.  yep.  that’s it.  nada mas.  no one, of course, said a word about his poorly dressed alert apparel.  lots of subtle snickering to be sure but not a word.  after that night, it went back to come as you are for alerts, and the only thing that mattered was the m-16 or some other weapon with plenty of ammo when you got to where you were supposed to be.

it’s interesting to see how things have or haven’t changed.  i wonder how melvin laird would have felt?  or perhaps dean rusk?  or macnamara?  at any rate, it’s dead soldier day weekend.  a time to say a prayer for those brothers in arms who never made it back.  a time to say just how much you appreciate the sacrifice of those who didn’t come back and those who are serving or have served and did come back.  whole or not.  seems like none of us ever come back whole.  a tragic veer if there ever was one. 

dead soldier weekend.  a proud american tradition since the civil war from whence it got it’s origins.  you may not like war, this current one in particular.  you may even be in the support the troops but not the war politically correct crowd.  tell you what.  god bless the child that wears his boxers to a fire fight.  at least he showed up and was ready for trouble.  god bless anyone who even shows up for the coming fire fights.     

make no mistake, it’s not what you wear to a fight.  it’s what you do when you get there.  happy memorial day weekend!!  light a candle for america. 

jmh

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gentlemen, the marines are drafting this month

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the re-runs keep on coming this summer. this particular one first appeared almost three years ago. originally it was a two part story. this time around i’m running it as one part. it is what it was and it’s more of my history and yours as well. life throws you knuckle curve balls that can sometimes change everything. even if you just stand there flat footed and watch the ball dance by. there are also odd circumstances in history/life that occur in which you are part but just a minor footnote. also, in case you haven’t noticed it, life can deal out irony like nobodies business. thanks for reading.

jmh

gentlemen the marines are drafting this month

it had already been a bad morning. a very bad morning. however, those seven words sent an electric shock through the hundred or so plus odd souls in the downtown los angeles army induction center, circa dec 1969. things were bad but they were just about to go completely sideways. but i’m getting ahead of myself.

that december day was the second time i’d been drafted by uncle sam. i’d received an induction notice back in may of the same year. i’d managed to get out of that one. i was still in school and actually doing ok for a change. meaning good grades. hell, i was even on the dean’s list. the school got me out of it but warned me if i didn’t go to another school in the fall i’d be history. i’d already spent one of my lifetimes going to that local community college. three years to graduate from a two year school. it was a good thing i drifted into the theatre department. it meant good grades and a sorta reprieve from the inevitable.

yes, it was inevitable. it was all written a few months before i was born in 1948. harry truman re-signed the draft law act and i was doomed while still in my mother’s womb. oh, sure i could have gone to canada but that really wasn’t an option. my father, my uncles, and my godfather. yeah, my godfather, a lucky to be alive heavily decorated big time ww2 combat vet and at the time still in the army. my dad’s best friend. get the picture? doubtful in these weird times.

there were other various ways to avoid the draft. some of which must have worked or the folks in the draft resistance centers wouldn’t have told you about them. though most of the stuff wasn’t something i’d like to try and pull off. say, like crapping in your pants and peeing in them as well for a week or so before your induction physical. that riff was supposed to work as quickly as it took them to get you out of the building. something i didn’t think any sane person could manage. there was another one not quite as bad. it involved a rotten fish, some thread, a needle, and the guts to string the thread through the fish then leave it there to rot along with the fish. after a few days you would take the needle and thread then somehow or another run it through your knee. either one it didn’t matter. this made for an interesting infection in your knee and with the string left there it made for an even more interesting x-ray. no, i don’t think so. thanks, anyway.

another way to avoid the draft if you could come up with $300 or $400 there were doctors that could get you out. maybe. that was the catch, it was only a maybe. however, $300 back in those days might as well have been $100,000 today. plus my folks were just working class stiffs and salt of the earth types. not much cash at that time and one of the reasons i went to the community college to start with. oh, i had some cash but it would have wiped me out. better to just go with some odds and roll the dice. then see what happens. youth, guile, and bluster.

i’d worked through the summer. sorta. i spent a lot of time at the beach or just dicking about. the fall rolled around and i had no plans for school. i was just going to totally lay around and wait for my next draft notice. my parents weren’t happy about this so called plan but then nothing much they could do about it other than bitch. especially when i told them why would anyone want to hire someone who might get drafted next month? i wouldn’t. that usually kept them out of my hair for a few weeks at a time.

the first or second week of november i got my second draft notice. i recall just sitting in the den holding the unopened letter. it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

the swan song of my civilian life was seeing the rolling stones at the forum in inglewood. the infamous 3am show where mick laments he should have brought along his toothbrush. it had been scheduled for much earlier in the evening as the second show of the night. the first show got started several hours late and things just snowballed from there on out. my girlfriend at the time did manage to score peter fonda’s autograph. i finally made it home after the sun had been up for awhile.

just as a drift since i haven’t drifted yet…that particular girlfriend’s parents hated me. i would be in her college dorm room fucking her or she would be giving me head and the phone would ring and it would be her parents or older brother telling her to dump me. the call would go on and on. we would just lay there naked while they ranted on about me. i didn’t care about the call, her brother, or her parents. she swallowed. then she would make some tea to clear her palette as it were. hey, older brother, listen to this. yes, well, my bad.

the fatal morning finally arrived. it was an early morning ride in the dark from de onta out to san berdoo and the swing auditorium for the draft call cattle call. the first stop of the day. the first stop in what was to become an almost two year long living breathing real life twilight zone episode.

it was a sad farewell. parents hugging kids. girlfriends crying. parents crying. young men trying not to cry. it was a sea of misery. then it came time to board the buses for the trip to downtown l.a. a long silent ride in the early morning darkness. private thoughts and prayers hung in the air like a thick fog.

once into the induction center it was the standard army cluster fuck. sorta. take your clothes off put em back on take em off again and wander around naked for awhile going here going there seeing that doctor getting a needle stuck in a vein. yeah, that deal went down with army medics. probably just out of medic school. medics who got lucky when they were sent to the induction center and not nam. at least for the moment.

standing naked in a line with a bunch of other naked guys is no fun. but standing in that line and watching some guy trying to hit pay dirt with a dull seemingly square needle was even worse. i have never seen anything like it. stab, miss, stab again, miss again. no more stabbing just twist the fucker around until the vein was popped and blood drawn. an amazing sight. some of the more feint hearted souls actually passed out watching that action being played out right there before them in living and breathing color.

after the probing and stuff we were given some sort of written test. i don’t recall anything that was on it. though it would play into what was to come later in the morning.

then came time to sit and wait. a game we would all come to play very well. a game that i can still play today. at some point or another we were taken into a room, 30 or 40 of us at a time. it was in this room we heard those fateful words, gentlemen, the marines are drafting this month.

it was more or less fine and dandy we were going to be stuck in the army for a couple of years. well, not fine and dandy but we were at some sort of peace with ourselves and the whole deal. however, this card from the bottom of the deck was more than any sane person could take. suddenly things got even more grim. i’d heard stories about marine corps boot camp from ex-marines during that time period and it’s something i had no wish to experience. the army experience would be more than enough, thank you.

the army officer who had made that statement let it sink in for a few seconds. not that it hadn’t already shaken everyone of us to the core. in those few seconds i came to the realization, that fuck it, i’m going out the open window if i hear my name and the marine corps mentioned in the same sentence.

sure the open window was 4 or 5 floors up from the street but what’s your point? i didn’t care. there were no windows on the lower floors as my friend, jwfh, pointed out and reminded me of yesterday. they had all been bricked over. all of the escape routes covered. either by bricks or army corporals whose sole mission was not to let anyone out of the building. i guess they didn’t think anyone would be fool hardy enough to take a dive from the 4th floor. yeah, well, think again.

they had taken all of our folders and put them in stacks on a a table at the front of the room. each stack had a separate number and letter code. we all had a number and letter code on our folders. say like 6c or 3a. i don’t recall what mine was. plus, i have no idea just how they came up with that number letter code. something to do with mental and psychical shape i’m sure.

after the stacks were completed the officer announced that the marines needed say, 4 6c’s. so the sargent randomly picked 4 folders from the 6c pile. those names were called out and the young men were told to go wait outside in the seating area. then he told the sargent the marines needed 6 3a’s. more random picking and more very very sad young men told to go wait outside. a different number of folders was selected from each of the piles. it wasn’t over until it was over. the group was thinned out by maybe a third and those among us who’s name hadn’t been called were then given the induction oath by the same officer. you’re in the army now.

once that was completed we were told to go wait outside and another group was called into the room. sitting outside, i have never seen more forlorn faces in my life than the faces on those poor guys who were going to go down to pendleton and marine corps boot camp. on the other hand those of us who hadn’t been ‘selected’ were almost ecstatic. go figure.

we waited around until the marines got what they wanted. we were given a bible, a box lunch, some toiletries then we boarded more buses for a 10 hour ride up to ft ord, on the monterrey peninsula. we were supposed to stop for restroom breaks and an evening meal but the driver was having none of that. there would be no one jumping ship or the bus on his watch. no, sir.

we arrived at ft ord around 11pm or later. exhausted and wired in that weird way. life was to become very very different for us all very very soon.

i do not mean to disparage the marine corps. no way. the story is true and was what it was in those times. pure and simple. without the marine corps we would all be in a bigger fix than we are already in. thankfully, there are those among us who still heed the the call of duty, honor, and country. may god bless them one and all. hopefully, some of those blessings will slop over to the rest of us.

i make no apologies for my time in the army or my time in vietnam. it was a sorta righteous deal that went askew. big time. shit happens. it will never be 1941 again. ever. however, that doesn’t mean some sort of applied force someplace is not warranted. iraq seems to be another vietnam. in the last 40 years it’s the only thing teddy kennedy ever got right. pure and simple.

the main problem with vietnam was we just up and left. a sad bad choice. left them to die by the millions. left them to die or worse in the re-education camps. re-education camps right out of mao and the chinese in the 60’s and 70’s. packing up and leaving without finishing the job was bad juju if there ever was bad juju. that bad karma continues to haunt this once great nation. the worst and nastiest re-education camp in vietnam? the old macv advisory 48 compound in ham tan. the place where i spent my year.

jmh

a memorial day video

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my friend ozark sent me this video in an email this morning. musically it kicks some ass. emotionally it kicks some ass as well, especially for us vietnam vets, whom the song is about. and for our vietnam era brothers and sisters. i hope you watch it and pass it along this memorial day weekend.

there are many veterans out there that need our help. it seems that the feds, the folks that start the shit, want to cut us out of the herd more and more every day. fine. so be it. let’s all try and do more for each other.

raise a glass and remember the fallen this weekend. remember them every day.

to all of my vietnam vet brothers and sisters, i hope we all one day find peace.

watch here

dead soldier weekend (another phase[?])

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dead soldier weekend is this coming weekend. time to honor those that gave their all for this once great nation. i was thinking about just trotting out an oldie from the vault and adding something about this sad sacred weekend. it is sad to some of us in many ways. maybe it should be for you as well. lift a glass to those who’ve fought and died for this nation. it’s the least you can do.

on a lighter note, for this dead soldier weekend instead of a repeat i’m going to give you a small and maybe semi amusing story from my time in vietnam. the astute among you might notice that the title of this epistle is the same title from a few years ago. the only difference here are the grammatical marks and the story itself.

i was attached to MACV Advisory Team 48, located in Ham Tan, South Vietnam. i’ve been down that road many times before in this blog. and i’ve written about various things over the years concerning my time spent there. i hadn’t thought about this particular incident in a long time. i got to thinking about it while the brown eyed girl and i were watching ‘army wives’ the other night. yeah, it’s a soap and i’ll sit and watch it on occasion. some episodes are pretty good. like the one ann margaret was in a few weeks ago. if you don’t know who ann margaret is you should google her. but i digress. the show we were watching was about USO shows and the iraq war.

during my year in ham tan we had a few USO acts come out every now and again. no one famous. usually just some filipino rock band trying to play top forty cover tunes while trying to stay in tune. ah, well, enough alcohol and smoke will make just about anything seem palatable on any number of levels. plus, it was good PR for the americans to welcome some of the local vietnamese onto the the small compound, at night, for some free grub and music. which of course, was all well and good.

just down the dirt road from us was a Navy Seabee unit. a great bunch of guys if there ever was one. sadly, i can’t remember their unit designation, if i could i’d give them the props they deserve. the seabee detachment was Seabee Team 03-21, many thanks to terry at http://www.seabee-rvn.com, i do appreciate it. at any rate, some of them would usually come up into our compound at night to drink and watch the nightly movie. some of us, on the other hand, were invited to drop by their place on the weekend to hang out and eat some decent chow for a change. a few of us even volunteered to ride shotgun for them several times. all in all, things worked out rather well. a very nice army/navy relationship.

the seabees would also always come over for the USO shows. why not? well, after a couple of the filipino band shows, several folks began to wonder about some other acts that might be available to venture out to us for an evenings entertainment. wonder indeed. wonder say, why not a band and a stripper? yeah, why not?

when the wonder actually got around to the asking it became very clear that the province senior advisor, an army bird colonel, would not have any such action taking place on army property while he was in command. no ifs and or buts, soldiers. sure we grumbled and bitched and figured, well, that was it. or so we thought. always remember, kids, that it ain’t over till it’s over and the stripper gets naked.

the seabee guys found out we couldn’t get the deal done so they cranked it up on their end and got a band, with a stripper, signed up to come out a few weeks down the road on a saturday afternoon. it had to be held in the early afternoon due to the logistics of getting them back to saigon before dark. the other bands stayed over as guests of the locals. but they didn’t have a stripper in tow. ah, yes, catholic and buddhist sensibilities along with proper decorum.

all of us army guys were, of course, invited to the up coming show. however, when the colonel found out he told the seabees they could forget about it. they then told him to kindly fuck off. they were navy and the show would be on navy property, thank you. and you, colonel, are not invited and have no further say in the matter. yes, siree. a regular dust up with a bunch of telephone traffic between the colonel and some higher ups in the navy.

as it turned out, the army colonel made a minor inroad. he got the navy to agree that there probably shouldn’t be a stripper involved. and the seabees agreed to this new wrinkle. wink wink. they would follow their officer’s wishes. officers who would be no where near ham tam come time for the afternoon show. the colonel? he was still missing from the guest list.

when the day of the show arrived the seabees got an early start and set up a stage. then they proceeded to line every piece of their heavy equipment along the wire that separated their compound from the road. a virtual wall of road graders and water tankers among other vehicles, thus pretty much sealing off the compound. and making it very hard for any lookie loos to get a good look, if any, at just what was going beyond the wire inside the compound.

we all showed up early for the festivities. eager to see the band and more importantly the stripper. who turned out to be a very lovely filipino lady. while we sat around drinking beer waiting for show-time, the colonel made at least three passes in his jeep trying like hell to see just what the fuck was going on inside the compound. he may or may not have been told to fuck off even further by the seabees but he never did see any of the show. and a fine show it was. i can assure you that amazingly enough, no gaudy debauchery occurred, before, during, or after the show. just your usual band with a stripper and a bunch of semi tanked up soldiers appreciating their show.

i wish i could tell you that the story had a happy ending. but, sadly, after the show, the colonel told the seabees they weren’t going to be allowed back on the army compound. his compound. and he told us we weren’t allowed to go on to the navy’s property any longer. what a fine mess. and what a fine ass hole he was.

yes, yet another anti-climatic true nam story from yours truly. just another of those, it is what it is stories, brought to you by the now defunct san bernardino county, ca draft board.

raise a glass and toast all the dead soldiers from all the wars. honor them all. they gave everything so we would still have the freedom to raise that glass and toast them. a simple thing to be sure and something that needs to be done more often than one weekend in may.

jmh

the following is a cut and paste from http://www.usmemorialday.org thanks to my friend, dfr, for turning me on to it.

HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of
time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.
By order of

JOHN A. LOGAN,
Commander-in-Chief

N.P. CHIPMAN,
Adjutant General

Official:
WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.

cemetery escort duty

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a friend of mine sent me this in an email.  it’s another one of those things by an unknown author.  whether it’s true or not really doesn’t matter much.  it sings and hits notes all on it’s own.  for those that are wondering…yes, it did.

jmh

Cemetery Escort Duty 

I just wanted to get the day over with and go down to Smokey’s.  Sneaking a look at my watch, I saw the time, 1655.  Five minutes to go before the cemetery gates are closed for the day.  Full dress was hot in the August sun.   Oklahoma summertime was as bad as ever–the heat and humidity at the same level–both too high.

I saw the car pull into the drive, ’69 or ’70 model Cadillac Deville, looked factory-new.  It pulled into the parking lot at a snail’s pace.  An old woman got out so slow I thought she was paralyzed; she had a cane and a sheaf of flowers–about four or five bunches as best I could tell.

I couldn’t help myself.  The thought came unwanted, and left a slightly bitter taste:  ‘She’s going to spend an hour, and for this old soldier, my hip hurts like hell and I’m ready to get out of here right now!’  But for this day, my duty was to assist anyone coming in.
 

Kevin would lock the ‘In’ gate and if I could hurry the old biddy along, we might make it to Smokey’s in time

I broke post attention.  My hip made gritty noises when I took the first step and the pain went up a notch.  I must have made a real military sight:  middle-aged man with a small pot gut and half a limp, in marine full-dress uniform, which had lost its razor crease about thirty minutes after I began the watch at the cemetery.
 

I stopped in front of her, halfway up the walk.  She looked up at me with an old woman’s squint
 

Ma’am, may I assist you in any way?

She took long enough to answer.

Yes, son.  Can you carry these flowers?  I seem to be moving a tad slow these days.
 

My pleasure, ma’am.‘  Well, it wasn’t too much of a lie.

She looked again.  ‘Marine, where were you stationed?

Vietnam, ma’am.  Ground-pounder. ’69 to ’71.

She looked at me closer.  ‘Wounded in action, I see.  Well done, Marine.  I’ll be as quick as I can.

I lied a little bigger:  ‘No hurry, ma’am.

She smiled and winked at me.  ‘Son, I’m 85-years-old and I can tell a lie from a long way off. Let’s get this done.  Might be the last time I can do this.  My name’s Joanne Wieserman, and I’ve a few Marines I’d like to see one more time.
 

Yes, ma ‘am.  At your service.

She headed for the World War I section, stopping at a stone.  She picked one of the flowers out of my arm and laid it on top of the stone.  She murmured something I couldn’t quite make out. The name on the marble was Donald S. Davidson, USMC: France 1918.

She turned away and made a straight line for the World War II section, stopping at one stone.  I saw a tear slowly tracking its way down her cheek.  She put a bunch on a stone; the name was Stephen X.Davidson, USMC, 1943.
 

She went up the row a ways and laid another bunch on a stone, Stanley J. Wieserman, USMC, 1944.
 

She paused for a second.  ‘Two more, son, and we’ll be done

I almost didn’t say anything, but, ‘Yes, ma’am.  Take your time.

She looked confused. ‘Where’s the Vietnam section, son?  I seem to have lost my way.

I pointed with my chin.  ‘That way, ma’am.

‘Oh!’ she chuckled quietly.  ‘Son, me and old age ain’t too friendly.‘ 

She headed down the walk I’d pointed at.  She stopped at a couple of stones before she found the ones she wanted.  She placed a bunch on Larry Wieserman, USMC, 1968, and the last on Darrel Wieserman, USMC, 1970.  She stood there and murmured a few words I still couldn’t make out.
 

OK, son, I’m finished.  Get me back to my car and you can go home.

Yes, ma’am.  If I may ask, were those your kinfolk?‘ 

She paused. ‘Yes, Donald Davidson was my father, Stephen was my uncle, Stanley was my husband, Larry and Darrel were our sons.  All killed in action, all marines.
 

She stopped.  Whether she had finished, or couldn’t finish, I don’t know.  She made her way to her car, slowly and painfully.

I waited for a polite distance to come between us and then double-timed it over to Kevin, waiting by the car.

Get to the ‘Out’ gate quick.  I have something I’ve got to do.

Kevin started to say something, but saw the look I gave him.  He broke the rules to get us there down the service road.  We beat her.  She hadn’t made it around the rotunda yet.
 

Kevin, stand at attention next to the gatepost.  Follow my lead.‘  I humped it across the drive to the other post.
 

When the Cadillac came puttering around from the hedges and began the short straight traverse to the gate, I called in my best gunny’s voice:  ‘TehenHut!  Present Haaaarms!

I have to hand it to Kevin; he never blinked an eye–full dress attention and a salute that would make his DI proud.
She drove through that gate with two old worn-out soldiers giving her a send-off she deserved, for service rendered to her country, and for knowing duty, honor and sacrifice.

I am not sure, but I think I saw a salute returned from that Cadillac.
 

Instead of ‘The End,’ just think of ‘Taps.

As a final thought on my part, let me share a favorite prayer: ‘Lord, keep our servicemen and women safe, whether they serve at home or overseas.  Hold them in your loving hands and protect them as they protect us.
 

Let’s all keep those currently serving and those who have gone before in our thoughts. They are the reason for the many freedoms we enjoy.
 

‘In God We Trust.’ 

Sorry about your monitor; it made mine blurry too! 

If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under!