Memorial Day – Taps For My Country

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For most of my life, Taps made me feel grateful (if sad) for the fallen, and frankly for all who served and not just in uniform.   It was a reminder that whether here in the U.S. or elsewhere freedoms so many take for granted come at a cost.   Sometimes at terrible cost.  However people have stepped up and risked all, and some have paid in blood, limbs and with their very lives.   Taps is a haunting yet beautiful way to remind us of the service and sacrifice of those for whom the battle is done.   But ever since I heard the awful words President Donald Trump Taps has taken on a different meaning.   Even the election of Joe Biden who got eight million votes than Trump hasn’t changed things for me.   I was certain he’d get as many votes as 2016 which was bad enough, but him getting so many more in 2020 was like a knife to my guts.

After I got stationed at HQMC which at the time (1980s) in Arlington, VA I made it a point to attend the weekly evening parade at Marine Barracks 8 & I across the river in DC.  It was every bit as impressive as I’d expected, but the moment that still sticks with me is the very end, with the retiring of the colors (lowering the American Flag) which was in the mostly darkened space moving.   Then the lights cut out completely, but as soon as the first note sounded a spotlight appeared on a lone bugler up on the parapet as he played Taps.   I tried, but couldn’t completely hold back tears.   That’s how overwhelming it was despite all the times I’d heard it before including at the burials of people I’d known.

Taps, Marine Barracks 8th and I – YouTube

For decades after, I’ve thought again and again about not just that first time I experienced what’s shown in the video, but subsequent times attending the Evening Parade.   And Memorial Day?   I could write a couple of pieces on how it shaped me starting with it’s origins and the man (General John A. Logan) credited with getting the tradition of Decoration Day which morphed into what we call Memorial Day started being from my hometown.   How solemn the day is, and the gratitude that was my primary emotion became part of my DNA at an early age.   And so it was with the playing of Taps.  Consider the words which you probably know:

Day is done, Gone the sun

From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky

All is well, safely rest.

God is nigh.

Well, all is NOT well and hasn’t been for a long time.   And God?  If there is a deity, whatever he/she is called I’m convinced it said “To hell with it” and left us to our own devices.  That after giving us so many chances to get things right, and to set us on the right course it was apparent it was hopeless.   Not that some warning signs and tests to see if we could recognize bad choices and choose wisely weren’t given.   Reagan.   Then Bush 43.   And if there is a God I can imagine him/her saying “What in the hell is WRONG with these people?  Are they THAT freaking stupid?   Are they that selfish, or self-destructive or both?  Fine.  I’ll give them a choice so obviously bad most people will recoil in horror from it.   This Trump guy.   Surely then they’ll come to their senses!  It won’t even be close, and maybe some sanity and cooperation will start to come back.”

Or maybe those who worship have been wrong all along and God is an asshole – the “cruel and vengeful God” Iago spoke of.   It’s not like the Old Testament didn’t suggest such a thing.   But let’s assume the bible is kind of right, and that New Testament stuff is God showing people the way.   Even God must have felt his/her patience sorely tried over time.  If you believe in God or some deity tell me you don’t wonder at the support he still has and think God just up and gave up on us.

The disdain and hatred I have for Trump and ANYONE who has voted for him, defended him, rationalized voting for him and so on is beyond measure.   So no, all is NOT safely well and God is definitely NOT nigh.   Now, hearing Taps evokes not pride of being born in a country where so many were willing to give so much (much more than I did), but grief.   That country is gone, and I fear will never come back even if we can diminish the forces/influence of Trumpism.   He should have been driven out of office by his own people long before his term was up.   And Memorial Day is a perfect reminder of the failures of people who might have done so.

“I don’t get it.  What was in it for them?” (Donald Trump to retired Marine General John Kelly at the grave of the latter’s son at Arlington National Cemetery)

Yes, on his first official Memorial Day when his then DHS Chief John Kelly tried to show Arlington National Cemetery to Trump, to get him to appreciate what it meant Trump actually said that as they visited the grave a Kelly’s son, a Marine officer who’d died in combat.   That Kelly didn’t knock that son-of-a-bitch Trump on his ass right then and there, then march over to the press pool and explain why he’d done what he’d done and was resigning right then and there says plenty about Kelly too.   None of it good!   But that is what our country had become and still remains.   A country in which enough Americans are willing to vote for someone like Trump.   Yes, only about 30 percent of the GOP worships him, but the rest put up with this kind of attitude for venal, selfish interests.   They might have held their noses (and would do so again even if Jesus was the Democratic nominee) but the voted for Trump.

Lest anyone think that Memorial Day comment from Trump was a one-time thing, let me remind you of the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI when virtually all the world’s leaders gathered in Paris to celebrate the occasion.   The Battle of Belleau Wood which began in June, 1918 was a turning point in the War.   As a jarhead I learned quite a bit more about it than I’d learned in history classes in school growing up.   My point though is that the dead of the Battle of Belleau Wood are buried in the Aisne-Marne Cemetery adjacent to where the fiercest of the fighting took place.   It’s not just Marines buried there, but in the Corps it’s among our most hallowed ground.   Most of the leaders of the free world made the trip on November 10, 2018 to the cemetery to remember the battle and honor the fallen.   Trump blew it off, and even blamed the Corps claiming Marine One couldn’t fly in the “weather” which was a drizzle.   Most other world leaders drove up from Paris by car, less than an hour’s drive with their escorts clearing the way.   Once again John Kelly dishonored his son, the Marine Corps and the United States by NOT knocking Trump on his ass and immediately going to the press pool and explaining why.

The real point though is that Trump truly believes those who served are suckers and losers.  That’s all the more true (as far as he’s concerned) of those who gave their lives.  “What was in it for them?” he asked.   The answer is simple and something ANY person who loves them some Trump, or who contorted themselves into knots rationalizing hates to even contemplate but the fact is what was in it for them was to NOT have a country in which someone like Donald Trump could attain and wield power – especially not elected power and for damned sure not the Presidency!

So in a way Trump was right.   We all were/are suckers.   My counselor last week suggested I should focus on the fact Trump, or someone like him wasn’t in power back when I joined up.   But people were even then scheming to create the conditions for a serious of useful idiots would wind up in the White House.   Reagan.  Then Bush 43.  And then Trump.  Each one worse, and if you think we can’t get worse than Trump think again.  The GOP establishment will bow to the MAGAts out there and no matter what prop up someone new as bad or worse (DeSantis for example) as Trump.

Against all that, how can I remember and be thankful for those lying under gravestones in our national cemeteries, or in countless cemeteries around our country and on foreign soil where they fell today?   It hurts that my own service, mundane by comparison has been dishonored by half of my country.   But it’s devastating to think of people like my father who went to extraordinary lengths to hide the numerous scars on his torso from WWII.   Or others from my hometown, including a quite man who almost never spoke from my church who I wouldn’t learn until I was in college survived the infamous Death March at Bataan and suffered through years of appalling captivity.   And other from that and subsequent wars and conflicts.   Sometimes some of the people I’ve known have died in service of this country.

And again I say when roughly half the electorate is willing to vote for someone like Trump, if not enthusiastically but still willing I weep for what we’ve turned in to.

So, late in the evening on this Memorial Day Taps is for my fallen country.  Except as I’ve already said, all is not well and God is not nigh.   Far from it in fact.

 

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8 COMMENTS

    • Electoral landslides only. He only got 50.7% of the popular vote in 1980 and just 58.8% in 1984. His electoral vote count was 489 and 525 in those years, respectively. It’s also worth noting that the turnout in 1980 was only 52.5% and just 53.3% in 1984 (with 86.5 million votes cast in 1980 and 92.6 million in 1984).

      Compare this century’s elections to date:

      2000: 105.5 million votes cast; 51.2% turnout
      2004: 122.3 million votes cast; 56.7% turnout
      2008: 131.3 million votes cast; 58.2% turnout
      2012: 129.0 million votes cast; 54.9% turnout
      2016: 136.7 million votes cast; 55.7% turnout
      2020: 158.4 million votes cast; 66.2% (est) turnout (Federal Election Commission hasn’t reported an official figure)

      In 2020, Biden came within 5 million votes by himself as were cast in total in 1980.

  1. Not to rub salt in the wound but I was also furious that that orange pig put a group of men whose only qualifications were memberships at his country club in charge of the VA. You survived war, he survived STDs he could (probably did) get at Studio 54.

  2. Dennis, to sort of add to what Rainyj posted, you really should spread a little of your ire at your fellow veterans who went ahead and voted for Trump in both elections despite his utter lack of appreciation for those who served in the military during both campaigns.

    To single out Kelly for his “inaction” towards Trump is somewhat uncalled for when so many other veterans refused to denounce the cretin, especially after Trump publicly ridiculed McCain’s time as a POW and insulted the Gold Star Families. Yes, Kelly SHOULD have done more but, at the same time, resigning over those particular issues wouldn’t have really accomplished much. Trump would’ve simply put in another toady.

    • I have actually taken fellow veteran’s to task and lost friends over it. In fact, going back to when I was on active duty I started losing friends in my hometown during Reagan because I didn’t blindly worship him, and pointed out that for all the money being thrown at the DOD (not just for crap like Strategic Defense Initiative – better known as Star Wars) while there wasn’t enough money for grunts like me to properly train at the range, or for specialized grunts like me to get even an annual refresher and fire even one single Dragon or T.O.W. missile (the tank killers of the era which had to be optically guided via wires attached to the back of the missiles back to the sight) a year! Eventually, I realized I wasn’t really welcome in my own home town, a small (and dying) town in southern Illinois. I’ll never see it again, which again on Memorial Day (for my dad) or Christmas (for my mom) breaks my heart that I can’t stand at their graves and place a wreath. Once Trump rose up out of the slime and I realized the same town that once gladly voted for the late liberal lion Paul Simon was Trump territory it really hit home how unwelcome I am there. Few people would want to see me and frankly I wouldn’t want to put them in a bad spot with other people there. I know that when my own time comes, there will be no honor guard from the local Veteran’s Posts to fire volleys over where my cremains will be buried. Maybe one of the few people there will play taps on their cell phone. Maybe. My sister if she’s still living then would I accept the folded flag but if she’s gone no one else will want it.

      So yes, there is anger and bitterness at plenty fellow Veterans and I’ve expressed it. What infuriates me so much about Kelly is the Marine Corps makes a huge deal, a HUGE fucking deal about leadership. He had not one but two priceless opportunities to stand up for Veterans and troops serving at the time and this very minute and expose Trump for the piece of shit that he is. And force the GOP to deal with it and dispose of Trump and take the initial hit with his base.

      And Kelly failed. Miserably. He wouldn’t even honor his own fucking SON who died in combat and stand up to Trump! We needed a true leader to seize the moment and he was as cowardly as those Uvalde cops. Kelly could have sent a powerful message to Veterans to wake the fuck up. It’s interesting to note that in the annual survey done by the Military Times for the first time we had a GOP President that the majority of the Officer Corps did NOT approve of. Trump. Sadly, the majority of enlisted troops did. Someone like Kelly in both of the moments I described (and who knows how many others we’ve not heard about?) and saying “THIS fuckwad doesn’t deserve ANY respect from the troops because he has NONE for them!” would I truly believe have made a huge difference.

      So yes, Kelly inspires a special level of ire and even hatred from this old, broken down jarhead. In “Old Corps” talk there is stuff about Lions and Lambs. Lions take care of their troops and stand up for them no matter what, even at the cost of advancement/their careers. Lambs suck up to the powers that be to bolster their chances at that next promotion and if the troops suffer so be it. Kelly was a fucking LAMB. Worse, he was so repeatedly while in a position to do immeasurable good.

      I’ll shut up now, but I hope you understand I do in fact have contempt for Veteran’s and troops who refuse to admit that Trump and the GOP have viewed and more importantly treated them as props for campaign crap to paint themselves as Patriots.

  3. My husband was career Navy E for 23_years, 15 ofvthem.married to.me. You can imagine how well I did as an E,wife: two.grad degrees, published author, lifelong feminist, pro-choice progressive witch. We are both about as horse left as it gets,without being an anarchist. We fit much better in MA than in GA.
    My husband went into Iraq with Marines and saw Saddam’s handiwork in the Kurds with chem weapons. Nope,,didn’t make the news,but it resulted in Clinton strengthening the mostly zone over the Kurdish territories. He was the only one in court try who could use the comm equipment, and had to get checked out on a,Desert Eagle (_he hates guns)/. I cannot forgive Trump abandoning them. He belongs in the lowest circle ofvhell.with the other traitors And the rest of his,administration with him.

    • A Desert Eagle? It must have been for show, to maybe scare people who saw him holding it. It’s about the most useless fucking handgun there can be in the hands of troops in the field. As I recall (working the counter at Sports Authority decades ago for extra cash) the damned thing weighs five and a half pounds EMPTY. Add in rounds, esp. the .50 cal version and it’s over six pounds of handgun. Unwieldy as hell to draw and bring up on target in a hurry too. I figure it’s best use would be in hand-to-hand fighting to pistol whip someone with given all those edges.

      Funny thing though (well – not really) about working that gun counter. Damned near everyone who was shopping for a gun be it a long gun or pistol would at some point, after some glances (sometimes quick, sometimes longingly bordering on lust) shyly ask “could I see the Desert Eagle?” So I’d take the fucking thing out and lock the slide back and check it (standard gun safety – ALWAYS ensure a weapon is unloaded!) and hand it to them. It was common for them to start acting the fool and aiming it every direction! Even worse, once or twice a week some father would have a young son in the store to buy them their first rifle or shotgun. Almost always something appropriate for a kid like a .22 rifle or a 20 Gauge shotgun. Many a kid (usually but not always a boy) would get a little excited when the gun was handed to them. And the father would snatch it from them and STERNLY lecture them about how THIS wasn’t a toy, and that it HAD to be handled like guns SHOULD be handled with every ounce of safety and respect for what that gun could do if someonone was careless. It was sometimes a bit intense but people my age who were properly taught about guns and safety from the get-go are ok with that. Making a kid understand the importance of gun safety and that from now on guns were NOT toys. Those kids got the message. For the moment.

      Sadly, most of the time once the gun had been chosen and while the paperwork for the state background check was being filled out the request would come to “check out that Desert Eagle” when we were done. And the majority of those fathers who’d been sooooooo strict with their kid minutes earlier would, you guessed it start acting the fool with that fucking Desert Eagle pointing it all over the place. And as I always did I’d have to intervene and tell them not to go aiming the gun around the store! What was both infuriating and heartbreaking was the confusion on the kid’s faces – wondering about how their dad had literally scared them about respect for guns and safely handling them only to then turn around and act far more irresponsibly than they had!

      That’s how gun culture has evolved. From a time like when I grew up when kids were taught properly and either respected guns and the damage they could do if mishandled or worse misused, and by the 1990s as the NRA was becoming radicalized into the kind of shit we see now with parents posing their kids, even babies with guns! That shit is all over social media (I posted a link in a comment on another article recently) and as far as I’m concerned any parent that fucking careless about guns needs to have Child Services remove that kid(s) from those homes immediately!

  4. COULDNT GET ANY POLOTIZOOM OPEN YESTERDAY .. did today.. this is wonderful .. Hubby a NamVet sharing w him and all DB friends TY for your service and your comments.

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