3 hours ago
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Posted by Mojo at 9:00 PM
On the wall by the fireplace my mother has a collage of eight photographs. Peering out from the eight openings in the mat are eight uniformed faces from four generations of her immediate family. Four wear the uniform of the US Army, two the US Navy, and two the US Marine Corps. Collectively they represent over 100 years of service and seven combat tours that I have verified. (The actual number is probably eight or nine, but some of the history is a little fuzzy for her.) They also represent all the other members of the family who served, but whose military photos have been lost over the years.
Seven of the eight are no longer with us.
I am the eighth. That's me in the top right hand corner of the frame. And perhaps I am still here so that I can write these words in the hope that they may somehow, someday obviate the need for future photographs like these. Maybe my purpose for still being here is to tell the story of the man in the top center photo.
Of the eight, my maternal grandfather had easily the most distinguished military career. Raised in coal country in the mountains of Pennsylvania, he enlisted during World War II and served in Europe. Later he served in Korea, and still later in Vietnam. In between those last two combat tours, he became the first NCO in history to serve as Provost Sergeant of both the post and the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, KS. During the Vietnam War, he served as Division Sergeant Major for the 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning). When he retired in 1974, he was next in line for Command Sergeant Major of the Army -- the Army's highest ranked NCO posting.
And the war stories from him I heard as a child and a young man?
I'm sure he had stories to tell. But he chose not to tell them. He never said why and I never asked. It was simply not discussed. But when he left the army, this man who grew up hunting and fishing in the mountains broke down and packed away all of his personal firearms. From that day until the day he died in 2002 he never picked up another gun.
He got it. He understood. All of his experiences taught him the concept that became the theme for my Peace Globe.
An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
There's nothing about war that's "glorious". Not even for the so-called "winners". It's ugly, and it's brutal and it's about as far from glorious as you can get. It reeks of death and sorrow. It's covered in mud and grime and blood and shit. And nobody knows that better than those who have seen it.
So for the other seven faces in my mother's frame, and for those in every other mother's heart, I offer up this plea.
Dona Nobis Pacem. Grant us peace.