Captain George Harris:  Memorial Day 2016

As Memorial Day approaches once again, I have been thinking about it more and more.  Perhaps it is because I have been reading more books about the war, the latest being “With the Old Breed” by E.B. Sledge who was a Marine mortar man In K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division during the battles of Pelilieu and Okinawa.

As we know, Memorial Day, is a day when we, as Nation, remember those who died in the service of our Nation.  Those of us of a “certain age” remember this day as Decoration Day, which was established shortly after the Civil War.  And we have many Americans to remember because more than a million Americans have died in all the wars we have fought from the Revolutionary War to our present 15 year war in the Middle East.

Some 2,400 years ago, Plato said, “The dead have seen the end of war.”  They lie silently in military cemeteries all over our Nation from our National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia to cemeteries in every state of the union and in cemeteries overseas.  These cemeteries bear  witness to the cost of war.  Headstones and monuments, including our Tomb of the Unknowns, stand as silent sentries over those who have given the last full measure of devotion.

But what of those who have given less that the last full measure?  In the last 15 years, more than a million young men and women have had their lives altered forever.  Some have had “million dollar wounds” but many have lost one or more limbs while others have suffered traumatic brain injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  Across our nation, 22 veterans die by their own hand every day.  That’s one every 65 minutes.  And our Veterans Administration health care system is overwhelmed.  Just as we owe those who have fallen for their sacrifice, we also owe those remain among us.

So today, when you pause to remember those who have died in the service of our Nation, I ask that you take a few moments to remember those who served and came home to live among us to remind us that, as John Steinbeck said, “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.

Thank you, George, for your words of honor again this year.  For those who don’t know, George Harris is our honorary poet laureate of Moonhowlings.  George began his military career  as a young kid, age 18, in the Navy.  He served as a corpsman in Korea and in Vietnam.  He has certainly seen more than his fair share of mayhem and destruction of the human soul.

Thanks again, George, for guiding us in the right direction on this day.


7 Thoughts to “Captain George S. Harris: Memorial Day 2016”

  1. Pat.Herve

    +1 George.

    In the past two decades, we as a country are eager to commit our resources to conflicts while at the same time, we as a nation do not change our habits at home. The conflict goes on without an impact at home. And then we do not treat our returning heroes as such.

  2. Kelly_3406

    You make excellent points, George. It reminds me of the famous quote from Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Fredericksburg: “It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it.”

    1. That is one of my favorite quotes.

      I thought of it when I wrote the male vs the woman version of war quote.

  3. George S. Harris

    Thank you so much for posting my ramblings Moon. While I can’t speak for others who have served, I do believe that all of us feel that it truly was our honor and privilege to serve the Nation as members of the Armed Forces. We are well aware of what war is all about having been there. Some people believe that military folks yearn for war but nothing could be further from the truth. Once you have seen what wars do, you know you never want to see another and besides, who is on the business end of someone else’s killing machine? It is not those who send the military to war and I think Pat Herve makes that point very well. Yes, Kelly-General Lee was right, war is a terrible thing-it is not all glory. It is blood, sweat, tears, moments of sheer terror, noise beyond belief and death and dismemberment. It is wounds, both physical and mental, that forever alter the lives of those affected and the lives of their loved ones. Yes, war is a terrible thing, the absolute failure of diplomacy and our failure as human beings to respect the lives of others.

    1. And yet there are times when war cannot be avoided.

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts an the subject, George.

    2. Steve Thomas

      @George S. Harris

      Great sentiments, Skipper.

      I am just finishing up Robert Leckie’s “Helmet For My Pillow”. He was one of Sledge’s contemporaries, although they served in different units.

      Yes, war, while at times necessary, is indeed a terrible thing.

      1. George S. Harris

        @Steve Thomas

        Will check it out. Have been thinking about all the young Hospital Corpsmen I helped train and those in my command. Those still round are now long in the tooth. My how the time flies-fifty years since I arrived in Vietnam.

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