I love words. The taste, the sound, the way they roll in your mouth, or light your brain on fire. But words have their limitations. They can communicate so much so effortlessly, so precisely, that one is often shocked when they fail; when a great gulf erupts between the feeling and the message.
Today is like that. ‘Thoughts’, ‘prayers’, and ‘thanks’ do not convey the depth of devotion, or the spirit of sacrifice, that attends our national mind. Words utterly fail to describe the emotion that this demands. That some of our best have faced up to the worst, within themselves and others, is beyond anything one may craft. Some things are incommunicable. The best writing about war is often the simplest; it is surreal to think that something so terrible could be so universal, and so simply devastating.
Reason.tv made this short, moving film about a soldier’s organization called Honor Flight. Watch it with some tissues. They’re also working on a longer documentary. You can also check out my photo safari in Arlington National Cemetery.
In a week or so I have the deep honor of being best man to a former Marine, who received the Purple Heart twice in Fallujah in 2005. On his way home, he was briefly in Germany, and encountered a Soldier’s Angel. Make me tear up, Blackfive:
[H]ere’s a letter that Willie (a German citizen and Soldiers’ Angel) received from a Marine:
May 7, 2005
My name is Alex Sargent and I am a corporal in the United States Marine Corps. Many months ago, while in the hospital recovering from a combat injury, I received your letter. Although my period of healing has been long and the skies have yet to clear up for me, I can say most assuredly that I wouldn’t be the same without the support and appreciation of people like you. You’ve affirmed me that my sacrifice, and even graver sacrifices of some I cared deeply for, have not gone unnoticed. I know your letter was one of gratitude; a thanks for what I did. Your support was invaluable to my healing.
During a sweep of houses during the Battle of Fallujah, Corporal Sargent and two other Marines (his good friends) entered a building that had been searched the day before. A hidden terrorist killed Sargent’s team-mates and severely wounded him. They were members of the Thundering Third. While Sargent passed through Germany on his way home to be treated for his wounds, Willie and other angels ensured he had a backpack (complete with clean clothes, quilt, pillow, etc.) with a note of thanks in it.
Alex was shot in the arm and leg multiple times, and told he might never walk. In November of 2005, he completed the Marine Corps Marathon here in DC. To say I am unqualified to be his best man is … inadequate. It’s another place where words fail so completely that it is almost a lie. Today I had to iron a shirt for work, and I bitched. I am no man compared to him, or to anyone who knows the sacrifice and danger and the madness of war. It will be the biggest honor and deepest pleasure I can imagine. Then we’ll get hammered.
On a less somber, more ass-kicky note, Matt Ufford of Warming Glow, former Marine and the best-damn-tv-blogger-around, put together a list of Eight Completely Badass Veterans You’ve Never Heard Of. How hard-core is this list? One guy led two bayonet-charges of the Chinese in Korea because he heard them say Americans didn’t like hand-to-hand combat. This guy treated war like a game of fucking truth or dare. My penis just crawled up inside me. Happy Veterans day, and thank you.