I woke up this morning with so much racing through my head. The one note that kept returning was a half remembered quote: “any act of telling a story is an act of compassion”. Those who know me suffer through some rambling stories from time to time.
On Memorial Day, this national day of remembering, I’m wondering how many stories will never be told. Maybe I should rejoice in the stories that have been remembered and re-told.
I like this one:
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
Their buddies who do, often feel guilty and are reluctant to share a story about a friend who did’nt make it back.
Some of the most memorable stories recount not what went well, but most often the times we almost made a mess of things. The combination of tragedy plus time turns those close-calls into humor. We survived. but just barely and can now with the distance of time, can laugh about it.
Marine Sergeant Dan Daly entered World War I as one of the United States’ most famous soldiers, having already won the Medal of Honor on two separate occasions for his service during the Boxer Rebellion and the U.S. occupation of Haiti. The 44-year-old continued to write his name into the history books during June 1918’s Battle of Belleau Wood, a month-long offensive that was one of the first major World War I battles fought by U.S. troops. On June 5, Daly bravely extinguished a fire on the verge of igniting a cache of explosive ammunition. Two days later, as his Marines were being shredded by enemy machine gun fire, Daly urged them to leave their cover and counterattack by supposedly screaming the famous words, “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?!”
Memorial Day is a national holiday. A time
to remember those who have died serving our country.
• It’s observed on the last Monday in May.
• In the past, Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day”
because people would decorate the graves of soldiers.
• Red poppies were often sold on Memorial Day to raise money for veterans
and their families.
We need more than just one day. To listen and remember all the great stories. Here’s one more.
Henry Johnson was the most famous member of the “Harlem Hellfighters,” an all-black National Guard unit that was among the first American forces to arrive in Europe during World War I. Johnson and his fellow African American soldiers spent their early days in the war performing unskilled manual labor before being sent to reinforce the depleted ranks of the French army.
On May 14, 1918, Johnson and another “Hellfighter” named Needham Roberts were serving sentry duty in the Argonne Forest. Just after 2 a.m. the duo was attacked by a detachment of some 20 German troops. Both men had soon been wounded—Roberts so severely that he was unable to stand or shoot—but Johnson held fast and fought back with hand grenades and his rifle. Despite being shot several times, he returned fire until his weapon jammed, and then used it as a club and fought hand to hand until it broke into pieces. When Johnson saw that the Germans were trying to take Roberts prisoner, he drew his one remaining weapon—a bolo knife—and slashed and stabbed several men until the raiding party finally fell back. When the dust cleared, Johnson had inflicted at least a dozen casualties on the Germans and suffered 21 wounds from gunfire and bayonets. Both he and Roberts were later given the Croix de Guerre—one of France’s highest military honors—but Johnson’s heroic stand went unrewarded in the United States until 1996, when he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He later received the Distinguished Service Cross in 2003.
jb signing off…05.24.2015 5:53 p.m.