Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

Taxis to hell- and back- into the Jaws of Death  Robt. F Sargent, USCG Photo 1944I think if you need an image to answer the question of why we take this day to honor  those who have served in the military, this might fit the bill.  It is titled “Taxis to hell- and back- into the Jaws of Death” and was captured during the D-Day invasion of 1944 by Robert F. Sargent, a Coast Guard photographer.  I can’t even begin to imagine putting myself into the boots or minds of those soldiers as they came off those landing barges, can’t fathom to any degree the basal fear  that must have been surging through each of them.  My stomach is in a knot just looking at this.

This is a trial of terror that most of us will never have to face, thankfully.  We should be more than grateful for those who been willing to put themselves in the path of great danger , for those that sacrifice their own opportunity for a long and comfortable life so that their comrades and those at home might have one.  They deserve a day, our gratitude and much more.

I am always conflicted on this day.  It’s too easy to be caught up in the romance  of war and combat from a distance, as though it were a mere video game that you can simply walk away from.  It’s much to easy to beat the drums of war from afar. We must honor the sacrifices of these soldiers by understanding the harsh reality of war and its aftermath,  resolving to try to avoid putting future generations of young men and women in harm’s way.  Who among us would want our children or any other child to have to face the scene in this photo?

Take a moment today and put aside the trappings of the holiday that have evolved from this day and remember why it is a holiday.  Be thankful for those who have sacrificed and pray that we can avoid future wars.


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I came across a photo recently and it really pulled me in immediately with an almost mystical appeal.  It’s an image of an iceberg taken under a midnight sun by during one of the great Antarctic expeditions of  the early part of the 20th century.  The photographer was Frank Hurley and doing a quick search revealed an amazing life of a man from Australia who documented with his camera some of the most storied explorations into Antarctica and both World Wars.  This being Memorial Day, I thought I’d share a couple of his WW I photos that mix artistry and the  hard reality of the battlefield.

The photo above shows the newest forms of warfare at the time, the biplanes,  swooping over soldiers coming out of the trenches.  I can only imagine the  element of terror that the plane hovering menacingly above must have added to the reeling minds of those soldiers trapped in that deadly cacaphony.

The second shows the battlefield under an icredible sky with light filtering from behind a dark cloud, casting an eerie radiance down on the trenches and bodies that gives it an end-of-the -world feel, which for many of the combatants, it was just that.  It makes me appreciate how easy and soft my own life is, how I have been spared the horrors of war.  It puts context behind the imagery of the rows of flags fluttering in blue skies that we often associate with Memorial Day and makes the words Lest We Forget have reall meaning.

Have a great holiday and try to remember what is behind the celebration.  If only for a moment, try to give it a bit of the reverence for which it stands.

Here is the photo of the iceberg [ further inspection reveals that it is not an iceberg but  land] that brought me to Mr. Hurley’s work.  It was taken during the Mawson Expedition which is the subject of a great book, Mawson’s Will, that tells an incredible story of survival of explorers trapped for two winters in the harshness of Antarctica.   I read it many years ago and highly recommend it.

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Memorial Day

Like a great many of you out there, I have not had to experience the hardships of war firsthand.  It remains a sight to see from a distance, on the television or in movies.  Terrifying and deadly but always from afar.  From this remote view it becomes an easy thing to simply shrug it off after a while and turn back to our own personal endeavors, thinking that the spectre of war won’t affect us and can remain a distant afterthought.

But it doesn’t take much  to realize how close war has been to each of us and our families for generations.  I know for me,while doing some genealogy,  I found war after war through the ages where relatives  served, some dying and some being wounded.  Young and not so young men who rallied to the call and paid some sort of price for their efforts.  My genealogy is unremarkable in that aspect as the same could certainly be said for almost all of  families.

There is a lot to hate about war.  The death, devastation and destruction is enough, let alone the financial costs that sap the economies of the world.  But while war is, and should remain, a thing to be despised, we owe a huge sense of gratitude for those who have served and paid the ultimate price to preserve the things and ideals we take for granted nearly every day, all the time  thinking that these things will remain in place without any need for protection. 

So today, remember the price paid, the lives cuts short.  Hate war, yes.  But give these soldiers who have shed their blood our gratitude and respect, as well as our empathy for the other lives they were never able to realize. 


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The Shining

National CemeteryIt’s  Sunday on the Memorial day weekend and I take a moment to just think about the people who have served and sacrificed for our country in the armed forces.  On a day like today you have to put aside your political views and remember the people who rest now beneath those shining white slabs in the  national cemeteries.  Forget disputes over whether this war or that war was justified.  Just remember those who have fallen, just a moment for those who have sacrificed in such a selfless manner.

So it’s pretty silent here and I think of a song from Badly Drawn Boy, The Shining.  It has a quiet feel and opens with the warm tones of a French horn.  Enjoy…

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