Read the whole post on Andy's page.But war is and has always been about death. No matter how much it’s glamorized, no matter how much we paint it over with ideas like “duty” and honor,” war is about death. The death of others and the possibility of our own. And death in war is not clean. The human body was not built for absorbing steel-jacketed bullets, red-hot shrapnel, concussion waves, intense immediate heat, and all the other means that people have devised to tear apart other human beings. As so many warriors have remarked over the centuries, there is no honor or glory in battlefield death. Those are terms the living use to deal with the horror of war.
This is why I’ve chosen to stay home on Memorial Day since 2006. I feel that solidarity with the dead even more for having been close to the dead. The dead have faces for me now, faces of the men and women with whom I served for twenty years. All the speeches and flags and parades and bugle calls cannot hide those faces from me. I feel grief far too deeply, and I feel it far too personally to share with a crowd of others.
Perhaps it’s alright in a larger sense to honor the fallen. I will certainly never presume to take away the sincere sentiments of those who remember the dead, even those whom we only know through a name on a brass grave plaque and a small American flag. For me, though, no speech, no flag, no parade, no playing of “Taps” can hide the horror that is war. No collective memorializing can, for me, mask the individual deaths of the men and women who never wanted to die. Hundreds of thousands. Millions. The grief from the loss of all these individual lives combines into the heat of a bonfire that overwhelms me, heat that holds me in thrall while threatening to consume me. I am left looking at the brutal, awful, distillation of, in Joseph Conrad’s words, “The Horror! The Horror!
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