Friday, September 20, 2013

Somewhere Old Shadows and Shades Shuffle Down the Street

Today is Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Day. In terms of the barrels of ink expended on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, this is more of a quart size observance than gallons.

Today has its roots in the late Seventies when Congress still did things other than kvetch and bitch about the other party, creating this observance in 1979 as the nation worked to rebuild its psyche after Vietnam. As long as we have had war, which is nearly as long as we've been on this planet, we've had the fog of war and its shroud too often on the real costs of conflict.

When I was a wee slip of a lad in prep school, I had an English teacher, Mr. Castle who had survived the Bataan Death March of World War II. He was a shattered man because of that experience.

And yet, not that many years ago, I met a long since retired Navy Lieutenant who had been a junior enlisted submariner whose sub had been sunk in the Pacific and he and others on the crew had been captured. He, too, survived Bataan but he was mentally and emotionally a completely different person than my school teacher and is, to this day, one of the most positive people I have ever met.

It's been years, decades actually, since I last watched the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington DC. One of Mom's brothers, Jim, was assigned to the guard detail but I was very small and have no memory of watching him stand the duty, but I still carry the recollections of the ceremony and its significance and can attest as well to the emotional impact it has on the observer.

For friends and families of POW's and MIA's there no finality, no neat but sad, ending or the conclusion of a chapter. Memories of loss fade, and life goes on, even if the number of guests at the banquet changes while the dull ache remains.

Perhaps the best we can do today is pause to honor the lives and sacrifices of the thousands of men and women who were/are prisoners of war or missing in action and vow if only to ourselves to demand of those who so blithely send our armed forces into harm's way as if it were a holiday package that our causus belli be always just and our accounting of losses be forever full and complete.

We owe those who are absent no less and far more.
-bill kenny

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