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Memorial Day — Why Now?
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Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Memorial DayThis is a picture from one of the columbariums at the Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of many of those who served the United States since the middle of the 19th century.

That is my Father’s marker. He didn’t know those located around his marker, but they all shared service to their country as part of their life.

I remember when this was Decoration Day and always celebrated on the 30th of May. It was ‘celebrated’ by going to tend the families’ grave sites. It was a solemn, personal holiday. Not all who have served this country or died in its wars did so in military uniforms. They should all be honored.

At the end of his short speech at the dedication of the cemetery at the Gettysburg battlefield Abraham Lincoln said:

It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Take some time to consider where we are on the road to accomplishing Lincoln’s challenge.


1 Cookie Jill { 05.28.12 at 1:53 pm }

Thank you for your family’s service to our country, Bryan.
Thank you.

2 Bryan { 05.28.12 at 7:44 pm }

I appreciate your thoughts, Jill, but don’t forget that working elections is just as important as carrying a rifle when it comes to protecting the country and promoting the ‘of, by, and for the people’ that Lincoln talked about.

3 Badtux { 05.29.12 at 2:11 am }

My father’s grave sits in a small family cemetery 2,000 miles from here. It is your standard flat veteran’s tombstone with the little ship for the USN on it. I have not seen it in ten years. The last time I saw it, the weather was cloudy and drizzly and none of my photos turned out.

He joined the Navy because the alternative was being drafted into the Army and sent to Korea, and he heard Korea was cold, something that a Louisiana boy from the bayous wanted nothing to do with. He spent his Navy service nice and warm in the galley of a tin can as a cook. If the Soviets had entered the war his tin can would have ended up at the bottom of the sea so it wasn’t safety he was looking for, it was more a case of dislike of the cold. Somehow I doubt he would have been very happy with your Alaska duty :).

4 Bryan { 05.29.12 at 5:24 pm }

Well, he could have been stationed at Adak on the end of the Aleutians. It didn’t have the extreme cold weather of inland Alaska, but it never got much above 50°. You could have fog, a thunderstorm, and a blizzard within 24 hours because the Aleutians are the border between the Bering Sea high pressure system, and the much warmer air over the Japanese current that is South of the islands.

He was definitely right about it getting cold in Korea, and it is a damp cold, so you feel it in your bones. If his destroyer had been part of the flotilla for one of the carriers used in Korea, he would have been nearly as cold as the guys on land.

If you don’t have pull, there are no safe jobs in the military, because they can decide you need to do ‘something new and exciting’. One of my parents’ oldest friends in the service was a cook/mess sergeant, but he spent December 1944 in the small town of Bastogne, and he learned what the infantry was all about. He transferred to the Air Force as soon as it was created because he wasn’t interested in repeating the experience.

I don’t know if it is true or not, but it has generally been accepted that the Navy has the best food of all the services. I just can’t imagine trying to cook in a moving ship, especially one as small as a destroyer. At least it is a civilian trade if you liked doing it.

5 Badtux { 05.29.12 at 10:11 pm }

My mom has a photo of him in his sailor suit stirring a big cauldron on gimbals. Apparently somehow this setup plus the lid (open for the photo) kept the stew inside from sloshing too badly. Knowing my father, the stew being cooked inside it was nicely spiced, but not *too* spiced because the Iowa and Kansas and New York lads couldn’t deal with that. That’s one reason why the Louisiana lads invariably got steered to the galley when they signed up for the Navy, guys from Louisiana know how to make pretty much anything edible. I imagine the crew liked that hot stew quite well when they came in off of deck duty with icicles dangling from their hats. If they were anything like me, they just held the bowl in their hands just inhaling the steam and delicious odor and going “Ahhhhhh” for a few seconds before setting it down and digging in.

You’re right about the civilian skills. After he left the Navy, he and my mom met at a greasy spoon cafe. She was the waitress, and he was the short order cook. Ten months later, there I was.

His Navy service was apparently pretty unmemorable, I suppose it’s hard for the cook to be involved in anything interesting in the absence of a naval war. Luckily Stalin was busy putting down the rebellion in the Ukraine and not interested in starting a shooting war, aside from also being in the process of dying, meaning that the Soviets sent a few dozen Mig-15’s and “volunteer” pilots to see how they worked against American fighters (answer: way better than the Americans expected), but otherwise stayed out of it. Kept it boring for the guys at sea, lucky for me.

6 Bryan { 05.30.12 at 12:28 am }

I can understand the gimlet arrangement, but during to slice vegetables to put it that pot could have gotten really exciting in rough seas, and trying to pour coffee would have been an art. Cooking anything on the grill surface would have certainly gotten interesting, and baking would have been nearly impossible, but they manage to do it.

For some reason there weren’t a lot of people looking for airborne qualified linguists when I got out, so I went with law enforcement to pay the bills while I got some real credentials in IT. I made a lot of people nervous for a long time.

I always appreciated food, even the less than 5-star they produced in most mess halls. There were times when hot food was in extremely short supply, and the individual rations were not something you wanted to subsist on for extended periods. I’m not particular to really spicy food, but there is a hell of lot more to preparing food than salt and pepper. Hell, I had to make my own peanut butter in Europe, and then I had to use olive oil instead of peanut oil.

There is nothing wrong with boring when things could turn nasty at any time.

7 Badtux { 05.30.12 at 9:55 pm }

During heavy seas my understanding is that the food went more to tuna sandwiches than stew. But understand that their understanding of “heavy seas” may differ from yours. My father said that anything short of a typhoon, you just went with the roll. I imagine it was a lot like playing a video game, predicting the path of the food as it slid around on the griddle so you could flip it and plop condiments on it at the appropriate time :). No, I don’t actually know how they did it, I just have a good imagination, heh.

Yes, my father did appreciate the boring. It beat the heck out of cold and nasty, what would have happened if the Army had drafted him and sent him to Korea. WTF, I probably would have made the same decision in his place, if the Soviets had entered the war and a Soviet sub had sunk his ship at least he would have been clean (well, other than food stains!) and warm up until the moment it happened.

8 Bryan { 05.30.12 at 11:53 pm }

My Uncle Maynard joined the Cavalry in World War II because he hated the thought of marching. I don’t know that being stuffed into a scout tank was better, but he didn’t have to march. You do what you have to do, and make your own choices rather than waiting to be drafted is the best way of dealing with it.

It had to take some great hand-eye coordination to flip a pancake or an egg in those conditions, although they were probably as short of eggs as we were on the Aleutians, so it was always ‘scrambled eggs’ reconstituted from the powdered version. Eggs and milk were always good trade items when you flew, if you could get them.

Now all of the jobs with direct civilian counterparts are done by contractors, so vets are at a real disadvantage when they get out.

Anybody who made it through the indignity of basic training is a vet, no matter what they did afterwards. You don’t really appreciate your civil rights until you lose them in the military.

9 Badtux { 05.31.12 at 11:57 pm }

You can do a lot with powdered eggs and powdered milk. Mostly by *not* doing the routine with them… powdered milk has to be mixed with something else to be palatable, a spiced hot milk drink with cinnamon and sugar works pretty well (would work even better if not for the Navy’s jihad against alcohol, sigh), and the powdered eggs… well, omelets made with powdered eggs actually aren’t bad, I’ve experimented with them while backpacking. Add some cheese and butter (well, “butter buds” and olive oil for backpacking) and finely diced spam and you have some fine eatin’, or at least something that tastes a lot better than you’d think.

And that’s why Louisiana boys who volunteer for the Navy tend to get sent straight to the galley :).

10 Bryan { 06.01.12 at 1:07 am }

They weren’t bad as long as you weren’t used to living on a farm and using fresh from under the hens. Cheese and spices cover a multitude of sins.

There was a cocoa mix in the rations that I liked even better than making it from scratch with whole milk and cocoa powder. I couldn’t drink powdered milk, like whole milk, but it would serve for cooking … not as good, but OK.

Spam is definitely better than the pemmican that were in Air Force survival rations. It may have been ‘nutritious’. but it tasted atrocious. I started carrying spice packets with me after survival school to cover the possibility of eating it.