All the Little Flags

November 10, 2012 1:26 pm0 commentsViews: 19
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a1AE38Opx2452456.medThey are still there, of course, the little flags that mark the graves of those killed on that famous Christmas raid on Trenton. Without that raid we might never have come to be. Did they have any notion of what they were starting? Sometimes, honestly, I even talk with them. And so I visit around Veteran’s Day.

It was easier when I was a teenager during the Second World War. Germany, Italy and Japan were evil empires; the rest of the world was good. I collected tin cans and newspapers for the war effort, even went on the roof from time to time to check for enemy planes. When the Korean War came, I put aside offers from the Phillies, White Sox and Indians and joined the Marine Corps.

I will never forget my third night on the front lines. The sky was ablaze with color: red rockets, streaking white trailers, armed parachutes, whizzing projectiles. Crazy eastern music, prancing white stallions, noise, noise, noise…

Through all that noise only a few enemy troops made it to our trench line, and we finished them off with pistols. I thought this would be a normal night on the front lines, but in my twelve months in the war it was the only attack I faced. A month before the war ended, we lost most of our platoon at a place called “Hook in the Road”—the artillery fire came down on us instead of them.

When my plane landed in Philadelphia, I could not find a single reminder that we were at war. My buddies were now at Temple and Penn State and their lives revolved around sex and booze.

The hardest time in the years following was listening to the veterans of Vietnam tear themselves apart over the validity of that war, which cost more than 55,000 lives. That price was too high for many to accept the emptiness of it all.

And so I go to my flags from time to time. And I talk with them, the thousands of little grunts who paid such a high price because they believed in the dream…

By the by, I saw a TV show the other night about North Korea testing nuclear missiles. I guess my war wasn’t a failure after all. The world is a safer place today because there is a South Korea in it.

And so, my little flags, we salute you on Veteran’s Day. Thank you and thank you and thank you.

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