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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

It's that time of year again. And while Americans all over the land rush to the beaches and parks to "celebrate" by eating barbecue and potato salad, others wait anxiously for news of those deployed; visit graveyards, lay wreaths; weep for those who never came home; or wonder why they lost their home, spouse, job, sometimes every anchor that holds them in place in society.

I never understood the "celebrate" aspect of Memorial Day. There is nothing to celebrate in the deaths of men and women, mostly young, of any race, nationality, ethnicity, skin colour, or religion. Rather, it is my sincere hope that all of you enjoying yourselves today will pause for a minute and contemplate this. Or simply bow your heads and think of the young boys and girls we have sent to so many places to be hurt and killed to make our oligarchic owners a little richer.

Today we at this blog bow our heads and think of Louis Rochat (Rocket, to members of the 1/9 Cav), who fought his last fight on Saturday. Rocket risked his life to save his fellow troopers. He lost part of a leg, the vision in one eye, and two fingers for them.

There's plenty of stories among troopers of the 9th Cav, that elite group of helicopter pilots who flew missions in VietNam. Most of them portray Rocket, fairly accurately, as an ornery SOB with courage and class, and a willingness to lay down his life for his fellow troopers. He was just a lad when he arrived in VN, and a wreck when he left, leaving behind pieces of himself. In his own words:
I was twenty years old and just married when I left for Vietnam, and I couldn’t wait to get there. I didn’t even think about the feelings of my folks or my new wife. . . . She watched a twenty-year-old, six-foot, 175-pound Army warrant officer gunship pilot, full of piss and vinegar and a will to live life to its fullest, leave for a place she had heard nothing but bad things about. She got back a 102-pound, dark hollow-eyed, morphine and Demerol dependent, shrapnel and nine times gunshot-wounded, nine-month and two-day Vietnam veteran, who barely knew where he was, much less that he was facing two years in the hospital and thirteen surgeries.
Despite his injuries and the horrors he had seen, Lou pulled himself together and went on to make a long and happy life with his doubtless-horrified young wife. And he took his time to say all his goodbyes when, wrecked by the horrors of that war, his body failed him. He found a new vocation and a voice as a writer, with passion reverberating in his stories. Here is his wonderful description of the sacrifice one of his fellow Troopers made for him.

Louis Rochat, you were a class act. You made the world a better place and showed how to live and how to die. Rest in peace, trooper, you've earned it.

So stop for a moment today and think about how you can make your fellow citizens' lives better. Send a letter to someone deployed out there, telling them you care. Put together a package for a trooper on the front lines. Volunteer for a couple of hours a week or a month with any organization that works with vets, especially the VietNam vets who didn't have the many opportunities we provide for troopers today.

As for all those people who wear flag shirts and "support the troops" with tacky crap made in China? Go read this. And then get off your fucking ass and do something. Other than flapping your gums, that is.

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At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. I'd sooner pull my own teeth than light up a barbeque on Memorial Day. I often do think I could possibly "celebrate" by shoving yellow "Support the Troops" magnets up appropriate asses....but I usually limit myself to putting flowers on the central stone of the Walk of the Fallen.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Ms. Manitoba said...

PolCat, thanks so much for writing this. The men and women of our military give so much to us. And those cynical politicians mouth words they really don't feel and try to separate those of us who identify as "progressive" from our brothers and sisters in the military. At least most working class progressives have known the sacrifices these men and women have made all through the centuries. Working class people have always been canon fodder in one way or another.

The men and women of the military have never gotten the respect and tender, loving comfort they deserved. They are like teachers in the U.S. They all have extremely important jobs but are treated very shabbily by our politicians and corporate dictators.


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