Monday, May 25, 2009

I Shaved Very Close This Morning In Preparation for Getting Smacked By You

"Standing up straight" or "Stranding upstate," which one?

Happy Memorial Day to y'all. Always a somber day, in a sense, remembering the many thousands of soldiers who have given their lives fighting all the villains and jerks and slapnuts in the world over the centuries. I have such admiration for fighting men, I'm kind of puzzled as to why I never joined up myself. I'd like to think I was made of stuff strong enough to walk shoulder to shoulder with such men, but I never found out first hand. I wonder if I'll ever know.

I'm certainly not a warhawk, but I'm also nowhere near a mealy-mouthed, spineless, self-deluded Utopian dreamer who is convinced that war is never the answer. Sometimes, war is most definitely the answer, as awful as that may be. Some people won't understand anything short of a kick to the teeth - and thank God there are men out there that have the nad necessary to administer just such a kick.

Here are some awesome World War 2 era pics I've collected over the years... click to see larger.

One of my favorite books of all time was first loaned to me by Dave-O and is called With the Old Breed, by E. B. Sledge. It's a harrowing chronicling of the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa in the Pacific campaign of World War 2, told by a frontline Marine that was there, in the thick of it. It takes your breath away reading it. Just when you think a man couldn't possibly go through a more trying physical ordeal, it gets bumped up a notch, again and again. I never knew what a human being could indefinitely endure until I read this book. Superhuman, really, and worthy of every once of honor and respect possible.

I've always been captivated by World War 2, more than any other era of military history, American or otherwise. I'm not sure why - it just seemed like such an epic clash between clear-cut "good" and clear-cut "evil". Epic is a good word for it. The Allies fought in every possible type of battlefield, in every possible type of terrain condition, and ultimately dominated in every case. Staggers the imagination, really.

Here's another pic I love... I have to show it big...

Something about that pic awes me and scares the heck out of me, at the same time. I can't imagine being on the receiving end of such a weapon. Sledge said in With the Old Breed that it is impossible to describe in words what it is like to be shelled by artillery. Flatly impossible. You have to go through it to understand the weight of the terror and tension. His unit had to storm across an airfield under artillery fire, mortar fire, machine gun and small arms fire, all simultaneously, nowhere to hide, full sprint, full gear, a couple hundred yards. He was amazed he survived, as well as many of his men. Many did not survive, as you can imagine. I'd type in his exact words for you from the book, but I can't find the page at the moment.

I guess, sometimes, ordinary people turn extraordinary under the right circumstances.

Here's a 10 minute slice of one of the best war movies ever made...

How that film didn't win Best Picture, I'll never know... Shakespear In Love? Are you kidding me? I still don't get how a film could win Best Director and not Best Picture. I guess the theory is that a great script can still shine in the hands of a mediocre director, and a mediocre script can be terrific in the hands of the right director. I don't know...

Every June 6th, I sit my girls down with wifey and I and we watch the D-Day invasion scene from Saving Private Ryan together. I never want them to be among the jillions of teens who have no clue what other 18-21 year olds like them accomplished 60 years ago... so many kids have no clue, or simply don't care. Makes me mad.

When I went with Chris on her 8th grade trip to Washington DC, we went to lots of war-related memorials and sites, including the Vietnam Wall, Arlington Cemetery and the Marine Memorial with the statue of the Marines raising the flag on the top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. Truly a unique battle for any era. A volcanic island with exactly zero civilians in the way anywhere. Full on, no holds barred fighting. The ideal battle, I suppose... still, I wouldn't wish that on anyone, either side.

I watched a documentary once about the battle of Iwo Jima, and it consisted only of actual footage and photos from the battle, and the narration was the words from letters and diaries that were written at the time of the battle, and they were read by the actual marines that had written them, who were, of course, very old at the time the doc was made. It was a viewing experience I'll never forget. I remember the first time I watched it - when it was over, I was sad that it had only been one hour long, yet at the same time, I didn't think I could take any more than that. Again, breathtaking. It's called Iwo Jima: 50 Years of Memories, and is available to Watch Instantly on Netflix, if you belong. Highly recommended.

I think I'll call it a day for now. Sorry, no humor or movie quotes or trivial nonsense today. It seems inappropriate today. I'll be back to my usual ridiculous self tomorrow, I'm sure.

Until tomorrow, Semper Fi.


Dave-O said...

WOOT WOOT, first to post comment, LOL. Great blog sir, and coming from us in the service, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT. Very somber day to say the least. great blog and look forward to readin them all year!!!

Avari said...

Great blog today. Awesome that you respect those guys. I too saw all of those cool memorials in Washington D.C. There are so many of them and they are all very pretty. My favorite era of war was back when they fought on horses with swords, that takes serious skill.

Paula Titus said...

Great post and thanks for the reminder of what the day is to commemorate. All too often it gets lost to hot dogs and potato salad.

marky said...

Happy Memorial Day.

I remember years ago reading a book called Chickenhawk. You've probably read it. It was one of the best books I've ever read. It's hard to get a feel for war when you've never taken part in one, but Chickenhawk brought the point home, and then some.

Ghannah said...

I am so glad you get your kids to know the history of D-day, WWII, and other battles or wars. It really is important for this young generation to honor those before us who have fought or have given their lives for our country.

Joseph said...

Thats a nice thing you do for your kids.

I like the new layout, it's very nice.