Here it is another year has passed and Memorial Day 2007 is here again. Once again ,most likely I will be the only one on the three block stretch between the two major streets where I live, who will fly the flags. Every day that weather permits I put out my American Flag and the Marine Corps flag. This weekend they will be joined by the smaller flags hanging from a longer pole displaying a 8″x10″flags, withthe American Flag and a POW/Missing in Action in the middle flanked by the Marine and Air Force on one side and the Navy and Army on the other.
Memorial Day was originally a day the Daughters Of the Confederacy set aside to honor the confederate dead of the Civil War. Later the President declared it to be a day to honor all American Servicemen who have fallen in the service of their country. Unfortunately to most people it is just a three day holiday to Bar-Be-Q, and go to the river and get drunk while trying to kill their-selves on all sort of mechanical toys and on the highways at the peril of others.
In the last chapter I got off on the topic of the melting of the Glaciers as reported in the National Geographic Magazine, in the same issue there is a article on Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. There are more than 300,000 burial sites included in this hallowed ground. They are burying at the average rate of 27 a day at the present time, including current and past servicemen. This is only one of many National Cemeteries in the United States. They are scattered all over the country. We have one in West Wood, near UCLA in Los Angeles, Cal. , another in Riverside. Most major Civil War battle sites have a National cemetery. I have visited the one in Vicksburg, Miss. and viewed the thousands of small white stone markers laid out in perfect rows..
In Springfield, Missouri during a trip to my home town, I visited the National Cemetery there. It was a place with winding road ways lined by hundreds of cannon standing on end capped with a over-sized ball. A Hugh bronze statue of General Sterling Price stands in the middle of it (He was the commander of the Confederate forces in Missouri during the Battle of Wilson Creek). I was puzzled why he stood in such a place of prominence, until I learned that the women of Springfield had the confederate dead of the Battle of Wilson Creek reentered there. They maintained the cemetery for a number of years until they could no longer maintain it and gave it to the federal government, which then began burying the servicemen of the surrounding countryside there. Just by luck I discovered the graves of two distant cousins who had served in Korea there.
What makes a old fart like me so patriotic? Well you see, I’m a Marine! Yeah, I said a Marine! You see you can take a body out of the Corps, but you can’t take the Corps out of the body. I may not be so lean, so mean, but I’m still a Marine. I used to call myself a ex-Marine, then a former Marine, but lately it was pointed out to me we are just Inactive Marines. Once you earn that title and you are presented that Eagle, Globe and Anchor, you are a Marine for life. I know it is hard for someone who has never earned the right to the title to understand the “Esprit De Corps” but believe me it exists. When a brother greets you with “Simper Fi” (Alway’s Faithful) it is almost automatic to reply with “To God, Country and the Corps”.
I guess it is the crucible of boot camp that first instills the pride that goes with the uniform. It is there where boys go from being boys to becoming young men with pride in who they are and what they have accomplished in thirteen weeks. And believe me there is a transformation. Oh we may still be young and cocky and even immature in many ways, but when we are together as a group and are at our tasks we have become a well oiled machine, capable of doing seemingly imposable things. after another few months of combat training we are one of the best trained fighting forces in the world. And we know it and the pride we take home on that first leave, everyone who knew us before can sense and see the difference.
Once you become a member of the Marine Corps Brotherhood, it is yours for life. I recieve each week a Marine Corps web news letter, which consists of letters written by active Marines, Inactive Marines, Friends, Families, Spouses and any and all Loved Ones. There are Marines from WWII writting about their service days and boot camps , to Marines in Irak with their comments. Privates to Generals, but the bottom line is we are all Marines or loved ones of Marines. and the undercurrent of pride prevails through out it all.
I have a grandson on the verge of indictment in July. While concerned about the prospects of Iraq, I am excited about his choice of the Marines. He is a highly intelligent young man of 20, but he is utterly rudderless at the present. I am eager for him to jump into the crucibl, and be forged into the man I know he can be. With the tender guidance of two loving, devoted members of the brotherhood, (known as DI”s), I know he can be forged into a UNITED STATES MARINE. I only hope I can have the chance to travel to the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot to see him graduat, and receive his Eagle,Globe and Anchor in person. And stand beside his tall proud body on that old asphalt grinder where I got my start into manhood fifty-one years ago. It will be great to look him in the eye and say Simper Fi Brother.
Simper Fi to those of you who have earned it. Until later to the rest. And a safe Memorial Day to all, take a moment to remember,