Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thank you to all our Veterans and Active Duty Personnel

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  A personal thank you to my husband, my deceased father, my brother, my brother-in-law, my nephew and niece, and all other Americans who either are currently serving or have served in the Armed Forces and kept the United States the land of the free.

I recently received the following in one of those emails that makes its way around the Internet in record time.  It seems appropriate to share it with you on the eve of Memorial Day.  It was written in 2007.  I don't know if this ceremony still takes place at the Pentagon every Friday, but I certainly hope so.  I worked in the Pentagon for 7 years and I can tell you what an impressive building it is and how important a ceremony such as this would be.  Hats off to whoever started this ceremony .. it is well deserved.

Mornings at the Pentagon

by Joseph L. Galloway
May 23, 2007

"Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines, sailors and Air Force personnel have given their lives in the terrible duty that is war.

"Thousands more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded and facing months or years in military hospitals.

"This week, I'm turning my space over to a good friend and former roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who recently completed a yearlong tour of duty and is now back at the Pentagon.

"Here's Lt. Col. Bateman's account of a little-known ceremony that fills the halls of the Army corridor of the Pentagon with cheers, applause, and many tears every Friday morning.  It first appeared on May 17 on the Weblog of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman at the Media Matters for America Website.

"It is 110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring of the Pentagon.  This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated:  the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright.  At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls.  There are thousands here.

"This hallway, more than any other, is the 'Army' hallway.  The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 s around the corner.  All army.  Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz.  Friends who may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross the way and renew.

"Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center.  The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies i this area.

"The temperature is rising already.  Nobody cares.  

"10:36 hours:  the clapping starts at the E-Ring.  That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building.  This clapping is low, sustained, hearty.  It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

"A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence.  He is the first.  He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating.  By his age, I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

"Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier.  Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different.  The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden ... yet.

"Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran.  This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment.  We have all been there now.  The soldier's chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel. 

"Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

"11:00 hours:  Twenty-four minutes of steady applause.  My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head.  My hands hurt.  Please!  Shut up and clap.  For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway - 20, 25, 30 ... fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts.

"They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals.  Some are wheeled along ... some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience.  Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade.  More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.

"These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our brothers, and we welcome them home.  This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than four years."


God Bless all of you. And thank you, again.

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