I haven’t written a blog post in eons. Wish I could say I had a good excuse, or even a bad one. I will cut myself some slack because I’ve been working on my book project. Honestly, I’ve avoided blogging because sometimes it seems readers just want to see angst and really frank personal honesty. Not there yet, and maybe never. I don’t feel I have any serious life lessons to pass along, in fact I’m not so good with my own life. But I have finally accepted that I’m what people call a “deep thinker” (wtf?), though when those words are used the accompanying speaker often wears a look of trepidation as though it’s an albatross around one’s neck (water, water everywhere…).
So, yeah, I think about lots of stuff and the channels of my thoughts change constantly. I mostly find what is swirling in my head pretty interesting but at times it’s a tad disconcerting. The last few days, I’ve found my thoughts to be very emotional. The foundation of it all relates to the horrible mess of our current society but I’ve been very moved by some of what I’ve been writing. In writing a history of our school district, I’ve become very attached to much of what I’m writing. I’ve “studied” some of these people for well over a year and feel as though I knew them personally. Much of what has been told to me through personal interviews is often colored by the fact they are childhood memories. Kids are wonderfully unfiltered and I think some of these folks have been surprised at how their stories come out.
I’m digressing. Here’s the deal…several people spoke of a wonderful young man, kind of an all-American boy. With smiles on their faces, they related how he taught them swimming or how they had watched him as a competitive diver. One man shared he hadn’t known the fellow well but liked him because the fellow dated his older sister (3-4 yrs difference) and didn’t treat him like the proverbial kid brother. He was treated as a peer and engaged the kid brother in meaningful conversation. But the individual stories always ended with some version of “it’s a shame what happened.”
Now, I was a kid when the Vietnam thing was taking place. I remember it was a contentious topic. I remember the daily kill count reports at 5:00 p.m. I remember the social unrest it caused here in the U.S.. As a ten year old, I wasn’t equipped to understand the real essence of it. But, I learned. And I learned mostly because I was to teach a Vietnam-era novel as part of the curriculum in 11th grade American Literature. I’ve always felt history is important to literature, important in understanding the time period in which a book is set and influences its overall character. So I immersed myself in all things relating to the Vietnam War. Since it was not my job to influence what students were to think of the war, I tried to gather information from all manner of resources.
And I learned. Through my father and uncle I had gained some understanding of WW II and the Korean Conflict. I’d long been a Civil War buff and know a fair amount of that gruesome spectacle. Through genealogical research, family members of mine have served in: the American Revolution, the Crimean War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WW I, WW II, and Korea. I’ve sampled the poetry from many of these conflicts and have watched oodles of documentaries and films. There is nothing glorious in war. No amount of veneration will convince me that it serves a worthwhile purpose. Read a few chapters of Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun and try to find some exaltation. Watch the film Glory and see how you feel at the end.
Listen, I have a deep reverence for these men and women who give and risk their lives for our continued freedom. They make the ultimate sacrifice. I guess my feeling is they shouldn’t have to do it. Let me share a few titles and lines from poems I admire:
“Into the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred.” “The Charge of the Light Brigade”–Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“And who are you my child and darling?/Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?” “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim”–Walt Whitman
“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.” “In Flanders Fields”–John McRae
“Who should dare to write their praise/Do so in the plainest phrase./Few names last, where many lie;/Even names of battles die.” “An Epitaph for the American Dead”–Yvor Winters
“Godspeed, Marine! Here’s my old wartime copy/of the Twenty-Third Psalm./”When assailed from all sides, it will provide you/with great solace and calm!” A Dad’s Letter to his Marine”–Robert Hinshaw, CMSgt, USAF, retired
“He’s lost his right arm/inside the stone. In the black mirror/a woman’s trying to erase names:/No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.” “Facing It”– Yusef Komunyakaa
And I learned…of love, of loss, of horror, of tragedy, of senselessness, of loyalty, of brotherhood, of fear, of sacrifice.
I’ve expended tears and prayers and am so thankful for these three to have marched through my consciousness.
RIP – Col. Richard Kibbey (BCHS ’52), Lt. (Jg) Henry Klein (BCHS ’57), 1st Lt. Dean Allen (BCHS ’59)