Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Ponderings

My family has been unusually fortunate - while we have and have had members of the extended clan in the Armed Services, it's been over a generation since we've lost a member in combat or to combat related causes.

The losses in service in my own life have been the physically and spiritually wounded members of the LGBT community returning from Gulf War I and subsequent conflicts. The young man who came back from naval service as an artillery service shy a leg and any semblance of self-esteem, and more recently guys coming back with varying degrees of PTSD.

In this most recent of conflicts, with over 150,000 troops serving abroad in combat environments, the losses are substantial - 3,500 (approx) dead, approaching 25,000 wounded, and 28,000 or so grieving families or families struggling to bring their beloved back to some level of recovery.

Yet, as wars go, that the casualties are not worse speaks to the professionalism and skill of our troops - even as one can legitimately become quite dismayed with military and political leadership horrifyingly slow on their feet to provide basic responses to changing combat realities.

Our service members have, by and large, in accordance with their oaths gone where they were told and done what they were instructed to do with an unusual degree of professionalism. If we have legitimate complaint, it is not with our soldiers and sailors - it is with our elected officials, and our generals and admirals - the ones deciding where to go and what to do on arrival.

Our troops removed vicious bastards of one description or another from power in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and may yet be visiting with Iran or Syria. Our troops today face homicidal loons (aka terrorists aka insurgents) in Iraq, most of them imported to Iraq from neighboring nations - and effectively act as exceptionally well-armed bait drawing the worlds worst from the cess-pools of humanity to engage in their sundry destructive behaviors far from American soil.

Thank you, each and every one.

To the politicans and military bureaucrats that only now are deploying IED-resistant vehicles to Iraq, that futzed about with initially 2nd-rate body armor, that failed to provide basic supplies, and that obstructed the efforts of dedicated troops and their families to supply themselves...let's just say I'm not especially thankful for YOU, and leave it at that.

The lost are beyond us. The wounded and the returning we can still think for their service - perhaps it is wise to seize the opportunity to thank them while they are not beyond us.

Finally, in what may become a tradition, a bit of Kipling (and a hint to remember the betrayal of our troops coming home from Vietnam, and not repeat it).


I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o'beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's ``Thank you, Mister Atkins,'' when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's ``Thank you, Mr. Atkins,'' when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy how's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints:
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind,"
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!

God/dess bless you ladies and gentleman, may your preferred deity shower blessings upon you, even as you are thanked by a grateful public for your service.

No comments: