In the blissful ignorance of the safety which the sacrifices of our fallen have provided us, the sheep say they “celebrate” Memorial Day, as if it was just another three day weekend. The sheepdogs who have been on the other side of the wall and have faced the wolf, and those who know and love them, know that more properly we “observe” Memorial Day. The warrior will toast the empty chair with a solemnity and an understanding that only he can truly appreciate. Those who love, support, and appreciate the warrior will also pay tribute in their own particular way.
Warriors have been known to be quite eloquent and have penned some truly moving prose. One such piece was given to Maj. Gene Duncan USMC several years ago. A young Lance Corporal approached him after having read one of Maj. Duncan’s books and pulled out his wallet. From that wallet he produced a well worn scrap of paper which he gave to Maj. Duncan. The L/Cpl explained that he had come across it several years before, so long that he had forgotten where, when and how, and that he had carried it with him ever since. The paper showed severe creases from having been folded and unfolded many, many times over the years. Now he wanted Maj. Duncan to have it. Handwritten by an anonymous author on that paper was the following poem, which Maj. Duncan thankfully saw fit to print and share with his readers;
The chaplain wore no helmet,
his head was bowed in prayer.
his face was seamed with sorrow,
but a trace of hope was there.
Our ranks were hushed and silent,
and diminished by our loss.
At our feet, the rows of crosses
told how much a battle cost.
Rows of neat, white wooden crosses
and Stars of David too,
marked the grave sites of our brothers
whose fighting days were through.
Friends of mine were lying there;
Ski, and Ace, and Slim,
Bo, and Jack, Bill and Joe,
Dusty, Tex, and Jim.
Each had a simple marker,
but the closest one to me
was a plain white wooden headboard
marked “Unknown USMC”.
In this final camp of comrades
it was somehow strange and odd,
that a man should lie among them
known to none except his God.
Who can he be, I wondered.
Was he white or black or red?
This man who shares a resting place
with our loved and honored dead.
He cannot be a stranger
but a friend whose lonely track
has brought him here among us.
I think I’ll call him Mac.
Mac is a name we often use,
and it’s been used on me.
Far better than the epitaph,
So many times I heard it
in the blackness of the night.
Through the swirling mist of combat,
with a battle at its height.
“Hey Mac” a voice would call,
“We could use some help out here.
I’ve got a man that’s wounded.
Can you get him to the rear?”
“Hey Mac, I’m really burning up.
The suns so blazing hot-
Could you spare a drop of water?
Gee thanks Mac, thanks a lot.”
The day when I was wounded,
hurt and lying in the snow,
a cigarette offered to me
by a man I didn’t know.
He quickly stopped the bleeding
and rolled me on my back,
grinned and gripped his rifle,
and said, “Take it easy Mac”.
A simple word. A simple name.
But still it proves to me,
that no man ever really is
The chaplain’s prayer is finished,
our colors gently dip,
the rifle squad is ready;
the bugler wets his lips.
With blurry eye and saddened heart
I hear the rifles crack.
Taps floats softly on the air
- I say goodbye to Mac.
Have a safe and blessed Memorial Day Weekend, and remember the reason why you can.