Sunday, May 23, 2010

A three day weekend

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

John McCrae shared this lament for the friend he watched die in battle the day before. Like him, we honored our citizen sacrifices on May 30 every year, those men who gave everything at Antietam and Gettysburg, at San Juan and Chateau-Thierry, on Peleliu and Inchon. We took poppies to the graves of those we lost in New York and Washington and in a lonely field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, those who died in Fallujah and in al Nasariyah. We mourn at the tombs of women from Avenger Field who died delivering our warplanes in 1944 and of graves of those who nursed us at DaNang and in Bosnia.
But it seems, somehow, that something has changed.
Instead of memorializing May 30, the day of reunification at the end of our civil war, Memorial Day now is the last Monday in May. That way we can enjoy a three day weekend. A bonus time off from work that makes it easier to enjoy the movies. Memorial Day Sales for tires and sofas and flat screen televisions. Low interest rates for every car on the lot. Take the family to a restaurant. I have seen a lot of Memorial Day sales advertised.
The only thing that I haven't seen yet, one week out, is a sale on poppies.
Perhaps they are so expensive that few are willing, now, to pay their price. Perhaps I just don't know where to look anymore.
In any event, next weekend, when there are three days to it, in addition to telling your boss 'thank you' for the extra day, take some time to say thank you for all those who made your weekend possible. They won't get three days off.
Jack Woodville London

Friday, May 14, 2010

Armed Forces Day

Fist. Club. Rock. Sword. Spear. Arrow. Gun. Cannon. Tank. Bomb. Mushroom cloud.

Mushroom. Glade. Hollow. Grave. Tomb. Tombstone. Cemetery. Arlington. Colleville.

Army. Navy. Marines. Air Force. Reserve. Mothers. Fathers. Wives. Daughters. Sons.

Gone to flowers, every one.

God bless those who, knowing that the leaders say war is the public's business, take up their duties with the heavy knowledge that the losses are personal.

Armed Forces Day.
Jack Woodville London

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The first American in St Lo, France

Major Thomas Howie used a field telephone to tell his commanding officer that his battalion of the 116th regiment would not quit until Howie would "See you in St. Lo," the critical French crossroads market town defended by Germany and attacked by the United States beyond the point of destruction. Howie then led his men to attack uphill to seize the high ground at Martinville, a hamlet that blocked the attack. He was killed by mortar fire but his men honored their leader: Major Howie was the first American in St. Lo after his unit broke through. His body was draped in a battle flag and put on the hood of a jeep, then driven to the rubble of the abbey church of Ste. Croix. Every soldier in the 29th and 35th divisions who entered St. Lo in the next 24 hours marched past and saluted the first man American to enter the city. The attack succeeded, the war moved on to the next critical battle, and Major Howie and thousands of other dead and wounded remained behind with the French in the Capital of the Ruins.