Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Death and war: an attempt at Memorial Day thoughts

Though I know people who know people who have died fighting in wars, I do not know people who have died fighting in wars. It's simply not in my experience. The one person I know who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery was not in the military and did not die in combat. I've been to Arlington, but at some level I likely simply had trouble thinking of how many of the men and women there are there because of war.

I was never one to gravitate to cemeteries -- mausoleums, though (one mausoleum in particular) are another story -- but that's its own entry for its own time. This is the time where it's worth thinking more about death and war.

Means I've been lucky. I haven't lost people to war. So today I should think about how I've been lucky.

My dad served a full 26-year career stint in the Navy. Not only did he survive (and have stories that he then felt more comfortable sharing once he'd retired), so did his marriage: back at Dad's retirement ceremony in 1994, my mom cracked that "by now most sailors have turned in their 40 for two 20s." He had close calls, but he was always able to come back to us.

His dad served in the Army during and right after World War II. Grandpa Irv -- long before he was a grandpa, but that's the way I always knew him -- was first stationed in the Aleutians in the event of the war reaching the far North Pacific. After V-E Day, Irv and his fellow troops transferred to Europe for, in a way, clean-up duty. Dealing with German war prisoners, for instance. The point is, the bullets were no longer flying when he arrived.

So many people knew so many who died at, for instance, Normandy. My go-to veteran of Normandy? James Doohan, future actor on Star Trek and someone who was acquainted with someone I'm acquainted with (author Peter David, who co-wrote Doohan's autobiography). Doohan and fellow Canadian troops were part of that immense landing. His biggest injury: getting shot in his middle finger. Had to be amputated. You can see his four-fingered hand in the episode "The Trouble With Tribbles," when he's carrying a pile of the aforementioned creatures.

I've known people who have been shot at in combat situations, but were lucky enough not to take those bullets. Probably I know more people who've been through that than I think. Because, again, I don't think about this stuff. And I'm a Navy brat who grew up around Dad's plaques for the squadrons he was in and the projects he worked on, who got to ride on an aircraft carrier for half a week as it sailed down the Atlantic, who heard jet fighters so often in his youth that they became part of the background noise. (When I got really interested in planes in the mid-80s, what did I get interested in? Passenger jets.)

Again, me? Lucky. How would I have dealt with the loss so many of us have had? I don't know. I hope I have the luxury not to know.

This is me, trying to think of those who have had to know.

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