The Blood Of Our Dead



It might not be immediately obvious, but I was raised in a family that revered military service, at least in times of war.

It was a different type of military honor than in the US though, because it went all the way to Rome and it was the idea of tribal defense, and also the idea of manly deportment (which weirdly never excluded me in my family.)  Legionaries shouldn’t cry, you were never a craven coward, even when you were a girl child and trembling inside.  When battle was offered, you joined battle with all seeming appearance of outward glee.  At any rate, you were supposed to fight to defend those smaller and weaker than you because that’s what humans did.  And yeah, sure, you could get hurt, but who cares about that?

“To every man upon this earth

Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his Gods.”

I fell from this into Heinlein, so many of whose books (including the juveniles) have someone adapting to military discipline and to the higher purpose of their calling to serve.

Both of these are antithetical to my education in an Europe which believes that any display of patriotism and militarism CAUSES war.  Yes, that is the lesson they took from WWI and WWII.

However, having tried recently to read a mil sf book I couldn’t quite get into, I do still see the military in Heinlein’s light, and can’t understand having the military for the military’s sake, without a reason to fight, without the fight meaning something.

Americans, by definition were given the best reason to fight.  We are something new in the world of men, a tribe of laws, a nation forged by an ideal.  We are so bizarre the chances of our surviving much from our founding were low.

Fortunately we raise enough young men willing to fight for the ideal, even when the ashes of their ancestors aren’t here — unless you count their spiritual ancestors, of course — and enough scientists and inventors to have the best military in the world.  And we also understood early on that the best way to defend our freedom was to fight for the freedom of others.

Yeah, sometimes we misstep.  And sometimes our leaders are in thrall of shiny foreign ideologies and get us deep in things best avoided.

But by and large, the blood of our heroes was shed to preserve what we are: the last, best, hope of mankind.

May we always produce such heroes.

And may we survive.

I understand the appeal of peace.  I understand the waste of young men dying in battle.  But I also understand that peace is not a unilateral choice and that humans being humans there will always be threats.  And I understand that if we go the way of Europe, Western civilization is lost or at least ripe for conquest.

I’d thank those who have died to preserve the USA but the gift is too large for “thank you” to mean anything.

All I can do is respect their sacrifice, honor them, and continue to uphold the country they died for.

45 thoughts on “The Blood Of Our Dead

  1. The only way to express our thanks for such a gift undeserved is to cherish it, defend it and do our best to preserve it for our (and their) heirs.

  2. My thoughts and prayers for any of my American cousins that have lost a soldier. As long as we remember their sacrifice their lose is not in vain.

  3. “contrary to some opinions, it is better to be a dead hero than a live louse. Dying is messy and inconvenient but even a louse dies someday no matter what he will do to stay alive and he is forever having to explain his choice.” Clifford Russel, “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”

  4. Legionaries shouldn’t cry …

    Geeze Louise, now I shall be stuck with the voice of Tom Hanks demanding “Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN THE LEGION!” for the rest of the day.

    At least I shall not suffer alone.

    1. Goes right up there with the Decanus telling the trainee they are deploying to Alesia from earlier in the weekend on Nikki’s comments.

    1. Thank you for your service.
      And yes today is, or should be, a day of mourning for those brave souls we’ve lost, whether in combat, or lives cut short through service related injuries, or simply from the ravages of time.
      The time to honor and celebrate those still with us, both active and retired, will of course come on November 11, Veteran’s Day.
      As for those who think this is just another three day weekend, Lord forgive them for they know not what they do. And damn the parents and teachers who never taught them better.

        1. It’s Always WordPress’s Fault.

          in fact, it’s so often its fault we’ll believe that even when it’s you! (It should have behaved better if it didn’t want that.)

  5. Here are some small points of information for those interested.

    When you fly the flag on Memorial Day from a wall-mounted flag bracket, you can’t fly it at half-mast as is appropriate. The proper way of signifying the same sentiment is to attach a black ribbon to the top of the flagpole, the same length as the flag. If possible, the ribbon should be at least 1.5 inches wide or wider.

    Also, “Happy Memorial Day” is an inappropriate greeting. We don’t “celebrate” Memorial Day, we “observe” it. And Memorial Day isn’t for honoring living veterans (I say this as a veteran), but for remembering those who gave their all in service to their country. It is a solemn occasion and should be observed as such. (This last paragraph came from upset comments from a fellow vet when the company he worked for did both of those things.)

    1. Indeed. I cringe every time I hear that.I should rather say, “Have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend yourself – and remember the fallen.”

    2. As a veteran who has served with Soldiers who came home in flag-draped coffins, when I hear “Happy Memorial Day,” it sounds a lot like “enjoy your steaming cupful of survivor’s guilt.”

  6. All I can do is respect their sacrifice, honor them, and continue to uphold the country they died for.

    Amen and amen.

  7. Heinlein was always a patriot, perhaps his midwestern upbringing reinforced by Annapolis. Early on he was also a globalist, see The Long Watch for his belief in the rightness of UN control of the planet. Still a moving story even if the UN has since failed miserably to live up to his faith in it.
    Later, I suspect his loyalties reverted to, as you say, the last best hope, we USAians. I believe were he still with us he would approve of that concept.
    There are good reasons why Starship Troopers is the most widely read fiction among our military. And why that movie is so universally loathed by the same folks.

    1. Still a moving story even if the UN has since failed miserably to live up to his faith in it.

      There is nothing wrong with dreaming, as such. It has often been discussed in this forum that this is a nation founded and built on a mostly shared dream by dreamers.

      Yet certain dreams founder in the face reality. This is not always a bad thing. Today we remember those who gave their lives to protect our common dream and the right to pursue our individual dreams in the face of those who did not share this or wish to allow it to continue.

  8. The young man for whom I am named is in a military cemetery in the Netherlands. He was my fathers cousin and boyhood pal. They graduated from High School in the spring of 1944 and signed up for service a few weeks later. A couple of classmates had left school early before graduating with the other 17 kids in their class.

    There was a bus going to the induction center at Fort Snelling with room for one. My father, younger by a few months, was told to go home and wait a week or so till the next bus. It was the last time they would see each other.

    While my father would be trained as a radio technician and would not go overseas until after the end of hostilities, “Johnny” was put through basic training and a short course of infantry training before being thrown into the Battle of the Bulge as an individual replacement.

    Belgium in the winter of 1944-45 was a place of bitter cold, equipment shortages, and close chaotic fighting. Johnny passed his nineteenth birthday in a frozen foxhole that January. He survived the winter and was part of the push into Cologne. There is black and white newsreel footage of tanks and infantry fighting through the streets of Cologne. I imagine he could have been one of those young soldiers scurrying from cover to cover as they cleared those streets.

    He was killed in action in early April as his unit was crossing a river in Germany. a couple of weeks later his comrades would liberate one of the smaller labor camps of the concentration camp system, and a couple of weeks after that, Germany would surrender.

    With minor details changed, his is the story of hundreds of thousands of young soldiers in that war.

    It was only a few years ago that I found out that his name was not really Johnny. That’s what people called him, but his birth certificate shows the same first and middle name as mine.

    1. One of my great-uncles was at Bastogne; he said, years later, that the greatest thing he’d ever seen was when the clouds went away and the C-47s could get through to airdrop supplies to them.

  9. I spent 22 years in the military. Only one deployment to a combat zone, Desert Storm. A lot of time to think about what I was doing, what the country was doing. I never regretted offering to put my life on the line. But I did reach a point where the decisions, and motives for them, by our civilian leaders, became suspect that my fellows and I weren’t always being used, and occasionally sacrificed, for the good of this country, but for the good of certain politicians and their backers bank accounts. But that doesn’t mean their sacrifices were in vain.

    We signed up because we believe in the idea of being free to make our own choices, and a system that enables us to do so. We signed up because we want to protect our families from those who want to take that freedom away, who want to cause us harm. Some of us signed up for that great adventure. And some of us signed up for the benefits that look fabulous to an 18 year old with no experience; and make those at 40 just shake their heads at how naïve they were.

    Now I can’t speak for everyone in the military; but it seems to me that the one thing we all want if we buy the farm, is to be remembered by those we leave behind. Some do that with parades, solemn ceremonies, placing flags on graves. Others with cook outs and talking about their time in service. Still others in quiet contemplation or prayer.

    Me, I think about our dead. I’ve read the names on the Wall. I’ve walked many rows in Arlington, and in cemeteries around the country; reading names, ranks, and dates. I thank them for stepping up and defending that freedom that I enjoy. I thank God that I was lucky enough not to be lying there with them. And I resolve to continue fighting for those things they died believing in; trying to be an example to others, and occasionally being a gadfly nipping at those in office.

    I remember.

    1. And me, I honor this day by reading statements like yours and our hostess’, because the sentiments cannot be expressed any more movingly and appropriately.
      Hey, all you overpaid household names at the overrated, failing “prestige” newspapers and magazines! Yeah, you guys. Just FYI, Mr. Houst here, and Mrs. Hoyt and her commenters have generously demonstrated how it should be done, way better than any of you, and for free. Learn something, already.

  10. “The family man dare not hang back and expect the bachelor to do his
    fighting for him. It is manifestly unfair for me to expect a bachelor
    to die for my children if I am unwilling to die for them myself.
    Enough of that attitude on the part of married men and the bachelor will
    refuse to fight if the married and stays safe at home…and the Republic
    is doomed. The barbarian will walk in unopposed.”

    Robert A. Heinlein
    To Sail Beyond The Sunset

  11. the ability to “understand that peace is not a unilateral choice and that humans being humans there will always be threats” is more and more lacking, and all to often not just on the leftoid side of the spectrum.

  12. fastrichard
    The Netherlands American Cemetery has 8301 guys buried and a bunch of missing represented by stars. The cemetery is fully subscribed, which means every grave has a family looking after it. Hell, I’m crying as I write this. And there’s a waiting list.
    Three towns have renamed streets after my father’s division, Timberwolf Straat. Achtmal, Standarbuiten, Zundert. I’m current corresponding with a guy at Achtmal who is looking for more info, so i got him a pic of my Dad and his squad leaders.
    Youtube has an official tour of each US Cemetery overseas.

    1. Thank you. I did not know about the locals adopting the graves. I may have to contact them. I don’t know if anyone who knew him as a boy is even still alive. Everyone I knew from that generation of my father’s family is gone. There might be a picture somewhere that would be nice to copy for their museum.

  13. This is the special Memorial Day presentation we did at work; recorded last Memorial Day.

  14. No wishes for “Happy Memorial Day” here. To my American neighbours who paid the highest price, and to their families – parents, siblings, children, spouses – thank you.
    “They shall grow not old
    As we that are left grow old.
    Age shall not weary them,
    Nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun,
    And in the morning,
    We will remember them.”

    Lest we forget.

    1. And unfortunately, we do.

      The Last of the Light Brigade

      There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
      There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
      They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
      They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

      They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
      That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
      They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
      And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!

      They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
      Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
      And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes
      The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”

      They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
      To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
      And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
      A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

      They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
      They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
      With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
      They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

      The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said,
      “You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead.
      An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell;
      For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell.

      “No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write
      A sort of ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’the fight?
      We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell’em how?
      You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”

      The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
      And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with “the sconrn of scorn.”
      And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
      Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

      O thirty million English that babble of England’s might,
      Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
      Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made –”
      And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!

  15. Today I’ve been remembering my uncle. He died just a year ago. Not in combat, but it’s very likely the cancer that killed him had more than a little to do with his service. He was an Air Force officer, retired after twenty-seven years as a Lt. Col. All his cautionary tales involved things not to do around a nuclear silo, so you can see why we think the cancer was service caused.

  16. Earlier this evening I posted an observation on the fact that American forces have typically shed blood not in wars of conquest but in wars of liberation or wars in defense of freedom and self-governance. In that comment I referenced the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Moronically I posted it in the wrong: Not Dead But Laughing rather than here.

    As it turns out the Battle Hymn was the subject of Mark Steyn’s “Song of the Week” feature, in which he traces the tune’s origins to the correct John Brown

    Sergeant John Brown, a Scotsman, a member of the Second Battalion, Boston Light Infantry Volunteer Militia.


    an old Methodist camp-meeting tune, “Brothers, Will You Meet Us?” So where did that come from? Well, back in the 1850s, a Sunday school composer, William Steffe of Richmond, Virginia, was asked to go and lead the singing at a Georgia camp meeting. When he got there, he found there were no song books and so improvised some words to one of those tunes that – like most of the others in those pre-copyright days – was just sorta floating in the ether. Steffe’s lyric, like the original John Brown song, had one verse – “Say, brothers, will you meet us?” – and one chorus: “Glory, glory, hallelujah…”

    to, ultimately Sherman’s troops in Georgia discovering

    Lieutenant Chandler, in writing of Sherman’s March to the Sea, tells that when the troops were halted at Shady Dale, Georgia, the regimental band played ‘John Brown’s Body’, whereupon a number of Negro girls coming from houses supposed to have been deserted, formed a circle around the band, and in a solemn and dignified manner danced to the tune. The Negro girls, with faces grave and demeanor characteristic of having performed a ceremony of religious tenor, retired to their cabins. It was learned from the older Negroes that this air, without any particular words to it, had long been known among them as the ‘wedding tune’. They considered it a sort of voodoo air, which held within its strains a mysterious hold upon the young colored women, who had been taught that unless they danced when they heard it played they would be doomed to a life of spinsterhood.

    So ladies, when you hear the Battle Hymn, dance in tribute to families and their formation.

  17. “I was raised in a family that revered military service, at least in times of war.”

    Rather peculiar, that, because Portugal hasn’t fought a war, other than colonial skirmishes, since 1815. (Not quite true, a Portuguese division went to the Western Front in the latter part of WW I. But that was soon regretted, AIUI.)

    Also, from what you’ve written before, your family absorbed the conventional Euroculture of the time, which was Eurocratic, trans-nationalist, para-socialist, and anti-war.

    And the only combat service experienced by Portuguese soldiers during or before your childhood would have been colonial warfare in Africa, which was widely opposed in Portugal.

    1. are you calling our hostess a liar, are you trolling, or are you not getting that her family wasnt quite the supposed eurocentric norm?

      1. No, he’s thinking of present service, not you know, the fact that dad raised me on Roman poets. I mean, he might be a troll too, for all I know.
        BUT FYI the stories of WWII were told, even if Portugal didn’t participate. And the movies I watched WERE WWII movies. No, Portuguese didn’t fight (for one it was moot to join the allies with Spain right next door and much bigger than Portugal on the axis side) but that doesn’t mean they were on the other side. Even under national socialism Portuguese were taught to hate fascism. I mean, sure, Salazar was national socialist. So was FDR on whom he largely modeled himself.

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