blàr anam [9]

“Your phone call yesterday was most precious to us – a Father’s Day bonus. No letters from you today. Our last was some time ago – the sad one with no number (after your campaign to number letters). We only have one numbered letter so far. As I tried to explain over the phone, there is nothing wrong with your expressing your feelings and wishes, even on such intense things as death and funerals, etc. But – coming from our son, whom we love, in the bloom of life and young manhood – it has a chilling effect. I can understand how sobering an experience it was to see death – perhaps for the first time? – and a sudden and violent death for one of your comrades. I can remember how it struck me the first time – but, then, so soon for me, it became a daily wholesale sight – and the sheer numbers made it more bearable – and it did not bother me too much – unless it was a close associate or friend. Death is a part of the picture for all of us – and sooner or later an immediate intimate part of our own personal lives. So – face it when you must – let it tell you what it must – and strengthen yourself from the encounter. It also bends your mind toward thoughts of eternity and God (or no God?). It is never far from the reality of military life. My heart is heavy over what I feel to be a wholly misunderstood concept you have toward the Army as an institution and a bitter enemy of your attempt to live as you’d prefer. The Army as you experience it now is indeed an unfriendly and enfolding ‘establishment’ stifling your very being, keeping you from ‘doing your thing’, even trying – unsuccessfully of course – to mold your very thoughts, make a machine out of you, etc. I felt the same way – once. I’d have puked (at that time) at the thought of being put six foot under in a uniform, the bugle singing as they shovel the dirt, etc. I’d have been bitter about the whole idea of a military funeral ceremony. Now, when my time gets to me – it is exactly what I want. In the American Legion, as a truly lousy blower of Taps, but the only blower available, I came to understand it – and it got into my heart. It is not the army or the military singing to you with the bugle and saluting you with the bungling uncoordinated firing squad – it is the whole sweep of history – taking you in at last – as a part of history. It isn’t the army honoring the dead – it’s the whole ragged company from 1776 on. You are in – you are a part – you belong to thousands, maybe, by now, millions, who wore the uniform – with the same lack of enthusiasm as you, who griped and died at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, the Argonne, the Coral Sea, Bastogne, Hamhung, and Hamburger Hill. Yes, they may have been busted for drunkenness, punished for mouthing an officer, running when the enemy charged, not seeing the justice of ‘Why must I be a target’? etc. Just American citizens trying to be soldiers when their country needed soldiers. No, son, it isn’t the institutional Army which has you by the ass just now – it’s something else which honors a soldier in a military funeral. I’ve tried to tell you what it is. It is not a mockery – as you are thinking. In a way it is the most precious honor for an American citizen. I’d rather be the person that I am and entitled to the flag covering my box than to be a rich man and not entitled to that flag.”
–Arthur Freeman, from a letter to his son David: 16 June 1969

Comments are closed.