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It’s been more than forty years since I made my last, final and permanent move out into the civilian world … leaving behind the life of a military brat, which had been mine since the day I was born … and making a new life ‘out there’ …

Life is different off-base … and, so are the people … not better, not worse … just different …

Out here, Memorial Day only comes once a year. On base, not a day went by that there wasn’t some reminder of the sacrifices – not just in dying, but also in living – that are expected of the men and women who answer our nation’s call to glory, and enter service with the United States Armed Forces …

We weren’t more morbid … just more mindful … everyone who lived on our block was the family of an NCO. Most of our dads were career men … a few old-timers who had served in World War II, a ton of Korean War vets, and plenty of Vietnam War vets. Many of those last had multiple tours … it was explained to me, once, that you could have way too many lieutenants in a war, but you could never have enough sergeants.

And we were mindful of the loss … on-base, we had more neighbors killed or wounded in action, just on our block, than you had in whole cities on the outside, in the civilian world … true, it was simply a matter of demographics – more soldiers, more casualties – but it shaped our minds and our memories, nonetheless.

More loss, and more apprehension … that day, for example, when none of our dads came home, all unexpected, because President Kennedy had issued an ultimatum to the Soviet Union over missiles being placed in Cuba … Kennedy (himself a combat vet) was backing-up his words with actions, and the Marines were headed for Little Creek …

And more history … one of the advantages to being posted someplace like Quantico, Virginia, was the close proximity of Washington, D.C. That meant Evening Parade at The Barracks at 8th and I streets … music, drill, the pomp and ceremony, the tradition … and the stories! My father, meeting with other old sergeants, the sleeves of their dress blues resembling a colorful washboard with the hashmarks that noted their years of service … “Well, let me tell you about Chesty Puller, son!” …

It’s easy to forget that history, off-base, provided you ever knew it to begin with … ‘Chesty Puller? … ‘First Marines?’ … ‘Chosin?’ … What the hey? There’s an old saying about learning from history. I remember, a few years back, when a Midland elementary school announced they were dropping “Raiders” as their mascot. Okay, that’s fine … your school, your mascot, go for it. But what got to me was, they couldn’t let it just go at that … they had to go on and on about the negative connotations of the word, “Raiders,” and how it just wasn’t appropriate for a school that prided itself on being exceptionally patriotic … and they relied upon faulty history to justify their beliefs in what the word represented.

I was mindful of my Uncle Fred, a Marine in the Pacific Theater during World War II, who was briefly attached to Colonel Carlson’s Raider Battalion, and fought in some of the most desperate combat of the war. True, 99% of the civilian world has never heard of the Marine Raiders, which was a small, elite unit, in a remote corner of a world war. But you’d think a lot of people would have heard of Dolittle’s Raiders, and their ‘thirty seconds over Tokyo’ … it was part of a major Hollywood film in 2001, for crying out loud!

And so, today, I have marked Memorial Day … as I will tomorrow, and the next day, and next week, and next month … the sacrifice of America’s war dead, what Lincoln called “the last full measure of their devotion,” won’t end tonight as the clock strikes midnight … why should our gratitude?

Semper Fidelis

silentwitness

There's a saying around here, something like, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!" That's me. I'm a 'dang Yankee from back-east' who settled in the Lone Star State after some extended stays in the eastern U.S., and New Mexico. I worked as an archaeologist for a few years before dusting off my second major in English, and embarking on a 25-year career in journalism. Since then, I've embraced the dark side of the force, and now work in PR for a community college in Midland, Texas.

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