Memorial Day 2019

May 24, 2019

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Memorial Day 2019

Monday is our national day of mourning. It used to be called Decoration Day. After our worst war, at least so far.

In 1860, all of the United States contained 31,443,321 people. About four million of them were slaves. Something between 620,000 and 850,000 men died in the Civil War. Four-hundred-seventy-six thousand men were wounded. Almost that many simply disappeared. One man in thirteen returned home missing a limb.

Women invented Memorial Day by doing the most feminine thing. They decorated the graves that held their greatest loss with flowers. And the same women made the peace. Gracious women in the south decorated the graves of the hated Yankees because they were someone’s sons, someone’s sweethearts.

Decoration Day appeared spontaneously. It probably began in the north in1864, the spring after Gettysburg. It was well established in Mississippi in 1866. By 1867, Decoration Day had its own hymn, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping.”

It was first called Memorial Day in 1882. For a century it was only a state holiday. It became a national holiday, and a three-day weekend in 1971. There are still separate days to honor Confederate War dead in Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

We now remember all our dead. And they are our dead.

Two-thousand five-hundred men died in the Spanish American War. One-hundred-sixteen-thousand-five-hundred-sixteen died in the First World War and another 405,399 in the following World War. Thirty-six-thousand-five-hundred-seventy-four died in Korea;. Fifty-eight-thousand-two-hundred-nine died in Vietnam. Three-hundred-eighty-three died in the Gulf War. The Department of Defense has been coy about deaths in the Global War on Terror but so far at least 6,845 Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday is the day we mourn them, or at least recall them. I tell the same story every year. This year there is a twist.

We Grow Old

For the last 31 years the most visible, and loudest, commemoration of our war dead has been a mass motorcycle ride called Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder began as a cross country ride from the TA Truck Stop in Ontario, California to the Vietnam Memorial Wall near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. That year, the new memorial had been defaced and one way to throw mud on a man was to bring up his service in Vietnam.

The ride was invented by three Vietnam veterans named named Ray Manzo, John Holland and Walt Sides. From 1988 on, the ride has been championed by another Vietnam veteran named Artie Muller. Muller was an infantryman in the Fourth Infantry Division in the general vicinity of Pleiku, Kon Tum and An Khe. He is now 73.

The first ride was what one of the participants called a “show of force.” Muller made the ride into a way of remembering Americans who had simply disappeared in Vietnam and who remained unaccounted for. As many as 1,200 Americans may have been abandoned in Vietnam. The issue was vital until at least 1994, when President Clinton began to normalize relations with Vietnam. Within a decade after that, the issue of unaccounted-for prisoners of war was mostly forgotten.

But Artie Muller did not forget. Muller’s group, which organizes the motorcycle ride every year, remains an “advocacy group that seeks to bring full accountability for prisoners of war and missing in action service members.”

Over the years, Rolling Thunder has become more a celebration of patriotism than a demand to bring back our prisoners.

The ride has mattered anyway. As recently as the Obama Administration, the President has met with Muller. This year, President Trump will be in Japan.

A decade ago. Rolling Thunder still mattered enough to annoy people.

The celebrated wit and national treasure Garrison Keillor wrote, “A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or patriotic graffiti…. Somehow a person associates Memorial Day with long moments of silence when you summon up mental images of men huddled together on LSTs and pilots revving up B-24s and infantrymen crouched behind piles of rubble steeling themselves for the next push,…. You don’t quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys.”

Keillor was the right age to have gone to Vietnam but he missed it. So, he did not understand why Muller wanted to make such a loud noise. “If anyone cared about the war dead,” Keillor thought, “they could go read David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War or Stephen Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944, to May 7, 1945 or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullaballoo without exposing themselves to danger, other than getting drunk and falling off a bike.”

Now Keillor’s prayers have been answered.

Muller has announced that this will be the final Rolling Thunder. It costs too much. Muller told radio station WAMU in Washington that permits, supplies, security and cleanup last year cost Rolling Thunder $200,000. The Pentagon charged the group $52,000 this year to rent the parking lot where the final ride into Washington is staged.

It’s just a lot of money,” Muller told the Military Times.

NO doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

Siegfried Sassoon, Craiglockart War Hospital, Edinburgh, October, 1917

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24 Responses to “Memorial Day 2019”

  1. JMacK Says:

    Those poetic ramblings have made me think again….

    Good to hear from you fayettenamhoe…

  2. fayettenamhoe Says:

    hamburgers, hot dog,
    go ride that machine around the block,
    tell it to the wind, memorial day is just a breeze
    and try to refrain yourself, they did not die
    for this worthless P.O.Sshit that kills thought;
    i have hated all of your rulers, if you respect
    your self you would too, they all will want to kill your child
    as they profit from mamma’s sorro

  3. fayettenamhoe Says:

    go walk that V pit in D.C.
    and tell all those brothers how fucked up war has become,
    come away with out a fresh eye gone blind,
    no you can’t ride into that blindness,
    you have to walk, from one end to the other and read the good names
    they was given, we all knew some one

  4. fayettenamhoe Says:

    look man;
    if you really want to feel it,
    go to D.C., walk that V shaped pit.
    arlington,
    and tell me about how you don’t cry.
    i know a few vets; some dead now
    they don’t go around with no
    stinking badges, hats, pins, ww2 vets, nam,
    korea,iraq, there is nothing to glorify,
    unless you believe in the horror
    and terror of war, sure the USA saved europe
    and most the world 70 years ago,
    since then if you have been off the clock
    or forgot how to fucking read, the USA has
    been since 1946 the most aggressive sponsor
    of terror, do your own research, read books not tweets
    and be sure to tell your children, not to believe
    any one who waves a flag over history,
    it will bite your eyeball’s out
    better me than your child

    he counts, all the vets counted the days

  5. jrino Says:

    Yes, and most of my weekend was at Fort Logan to pay my respects to friends I have lost and Hero’s who gave all for their buddies. Most Vets who fought and survived will say they did it for their comrades in arms during the fight. Country takes a back seat when you are trying to save your pals. God bless all vets who went to some of the hell holes the United States fought for and in.

  6. Haole Says:

    Life is Fleeting
    Separation Temporary
    Reunion Eternal

    RIP BIAs

    Til Valhalla, See You Soon

    Haole

  7. slopoke Says:

    Well you got part of it right. In 1983 the Viet Nam Vets MC started riding to the wall to call attention to the missing POW/MIAs and to force the government to keep looking for them. In 1987, rolling Thunder took over the run. The VNVLVMC has continued to participate to this day and averaged over 200 bikes to the run every year.

  8. Stevo Says:

    The Full Metal Jacket clip, at the top, the actors are running past my old barrack block on the left and behind the hedge on the right is the parade ground where I passed out into the army. They were just wrapping up filming when I reported for training and we’d see them running about shouting and doing their cadences. Years later I coached Stanley Kubricks grandson when he wanted to become a mountainbike racer…respects to all you over the pond who served.

    Stevo

  9. Nick Mead Says:

    Respect — from an Englishman.

    xxxx

  10. Commonsense Says:

    Thanks to all that served. Special thanks to those who were forced to go to Vietnam and came home to people who hated them.

  11. Bone Head Says:

    I was just one of the motor pool monkeys in Long Than. Nothing glorious. But I was on the berm every night during two Tet offensives. I’m also one of those fat men with a ponytail.

    Keillor, go fuck yourself.

    Thank you for your thoughts Rebel. You lend an air of meaning to this day of mourning.

  12. Troll 1% Says:

    Rebel
    A sincere thank you for all you do.and ,on behalf of those that can’t say it “Thanks for remebering”
    Sincerely
    Troll HHT 1/1 cav ’72-’75

  13. Gordo Says:

    To the fallen & the forgotten

    “Lest we forget”

    Thx

    Ride on

  14. Gordo Says:

    To the the fallen and the forgotten

    “Lest we forget”

    Thx

    Ride on

  15. anon Says:

    Thank you Rebel.

    PS: Fuck Keillor. Worms gotta eat too, he’d been more useful as a miscarriage than he has been in this life.

  16. I.J Says:

    Ask Trump where the $52,000 parking fee will be spent…….

  17. BeemerCM Says:

    Thanks Don.
    23rd Inf Div
    196th Lt Inf Bde
    Viet Nam ’71-’72

    FU Keillor

  18. Paladin Says:

    I have come to realize the true meaning of Memorial Day.

    Memorial Day is a day that has very little to do with the memorialization of those that have given their lives defending this country and the rest of the world from the evil that others do. For too many years Memorial Day has become a day that has everything to do with this country’s retailers exploitation of a day reserved for the remembrance of those that have died in the service of this country..

    So as not to seem discriminatory, retailers exploit Veteran’s Day for the same profiteering reasons. The behavior of this country’s retailers is the more offensive on Memorial Day, due to the fact that the sales events take place on what is supposed to be a day of remembrance and reflection on those that paid the ultimate (non-discounted) price, so retailers and consumers alike can carry on.

    With the exception of the European invasion that destroyed and enslaved the North American Indian, this country is unique in that other than the British, this country has never been invaded or occupied by a foreign nation. As such, the citizenry of this country have never experienced the death, destruction and very real horror of an invading and occupying force.

    The American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the US Civil War aside, our soldiers have always fought and died on foreign soil. Therefore, this country’s citizenry has been insulated from the true nature and horror of war. If this country’s citizenry had to step over or around the mangled and lifeless bodies of its soldiers in order to get their Memorial Day discounts, the deaths of our soldiers might be brought into sharper focus.

    Am I bitter about the way our veterans and those that serve are treated? Yes. Do I think that all of this country’s citizens are uncaring, greedy little Lemmings? No. However, this country’s government is a direct reflection of the citizenry that elected it. If this country is to truly honor its soldiers, veterans and those that have given their lives in the service of this country, the citizenry of this country must demand that its government honor them as well.

    Paladin

  19. Shutup Says:

    Thanks Don.
    And it’s Tommy this And Tommy that, and Tommy go away.
    But it’s thankyou mister Atkins when the band’s begin to play….

  20. freebird Says:

    The Pentagon charged the group $52,000 this year to rent the parking lot where the final ride into Washington is staged.

    What the Fuck……

    The show of force approach needs re-instituted

  21. Sieg Says:

    Thank you, Rebel, for reminding us, once again, of our Brothers and Sisters lives cut short.

    RIP / RIF

  22. Shovel Says:

    I never liked Garrison Keillor. I’m from Minnesota and enlisted in ’72 – R.A. in order to kill Cong and N.V.A. The Army weeded me out as psycho and I didn’t make it to ‘Nam. An ordinary airman named “Red” was taken prisoner by the North. While the N.V.A. were beating him during an interrogation he broke the chains holding him to the table and beat the 3 N.V.A. guards to death. I hope to do the same to my guards if the local paramilitary militarized cops ever beat me. Only Vietnam Vets would start the Black Liberation Army and take the fight to the un-American pigs who now occupy our country and patrol our streets. When I was in Roger Ram Jet’s unit there was a Puerto Rican, an American citizen, who had received a head wound while serving in ‘Nam. Some of my fellow soldiers who had never served in ‘Nam bad mouthed him. He was a hero and that’s when I learned respect. Thank you Veterans.

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