Monday, May 31, 2010

Major Ziegenfuss speaks to the American Legion

This Memorial Day weekend, Major Charles W. Zeigenfuss shares the text of his speech to American Legion Dick Munkres Post 287 in Savannah, Missouri.

Commander Burns, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and family: thank you for attending this remembrance for our fallen warriors.

On the 23rd of July, 2003, Captain Joshua T. Byers, 29, of Sparks, Nev.; assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Troop, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, in Fort Carson, Co.; was killed when his convoy hit an explosive device. Josh was not only my friend, but was my mentor and peer.

While supporting (which is a Department of Defense word for fighting) in Operation Enduring Freedom, another very close friend of mine was killed. He died May 29, 2004, just two days short of a Memorial Day, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck a land mine. Captain Daniel W. Eggers, 28, of Cape Coral, Florida. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

LTC Gary R Derby, 44, of Missoula, Montana; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division; died Feb. 9 2009 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds sustained when a car bomb was driven into his vehicle. LTC, then Captain Derby commanded a company in my battalion when I was a young shave-tail lieutenant. Aside from his candid leadership and sense of humor, he was the kind of guy who you could always count on to tell you when you were being an idiot—and how to really improve on style points.

One thing that each of these heroes had in common—besides having the unfortunate luck to serve with me, was that they took their duty very seriously; and themselves much less so. The loved the military, they loved serving this country; every day, and no days off.

Each was a family man. Each left behind a great legacy. Each served to the fullest measure. I am sure if they had the chance to be alive today, each would ask that someone who died alongside them would instead take their place among the living.

Many of our fellow citizens have no understanding of the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, other than it means a long weekend. Many people, especially those with no connection to the military, often confuse the two, citing Memorial Day as a day to thank those serving the nation in uniform. Recently, a friend of mine commented that “Memorial Day is meant to pay homage to those who gave their lives for this country and our way of life. It is a day to honor the dead. There is NO such thing as “Happy Memorial Day.”

Respectfully, I disagree, in part, anyway.

Memorial Day is a happy yet solemn, joyful yet tearful, partly sunny yet mostly cloudy kind of day.

We are living the days these men and women never will. Live them well, be happy, and enjoy the blessings of liberty their service and sacrifice have bought. Although we take pause today to remember their absence, we must also take this day to celebrate the very liberty they have secured.

Memorial Day should be a "happy" day, the same as Easter. We remember the sacrifice, and the cost, yet we rejoice in the promise of chocolate rabbits, only six more weeks till spring (if Christ came out of the tomb and saw his shadow) and painted eggs, god-awfully early church services, plastic grass, and kids on a blood-sugar bender. We remember the sacrifice, and the cost, of the loss of friends and family on this day. I remember Josh wearing a cape and boxer shorts and little else, standing in the Kuwaiti desert and saluting passing vehicles. I remember sharing stories and fixing the world’s problems over barbeque and beer with Dan. I remember Gary creatively counseling another lieutenant who just refused to “get it.” I remember these men fondly, and am thankful to wear the same uniform, to serve the same nation, and to carry forward where they cannot.

Dan, Josh, and Gary can't spend this day, or any other day with their families, or among us, and we are a poorer nation because of that. I miss them, but today I pay special attention to their absence, and jealously guard my time with my family. We will have a happy day, because my friends, my mentors, my brothers have already paid for it, in advance, with interest.

I do not mean to suggest that it is proper to tell a recent widow to have a “Happy” Memorial Day. I know the families of the fallen, and especially the recently fallen, spend this day in grief, but they spend this day remembering none the less. They will, in time, first recall the good things, the joys and happiness, the special days; and will lock away the days which hurt the most. These families, these survivors, have something their warriors no longer have… time. They have time to grieve, time to mourn, and time to heal. They will, soon enough, spend their memorial days at family barbeques, pool openings, amusement parks, and all manner of fun and happy occasions.

On Memorial Day, these families, mine and hopefully yours, will also pause to remember all of the joyful times we spent with those who have stood their final muster, and then we too, will go on living, and have a happy Memorial Day.

Thank you for your time and your attention.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not forgotten

1LT Kile G. West was killed in action on Memorial Day 2007. Today marks three years since that fateful day. I was honored to be able to attend his funeral. Kile will not be forgotten. I remember, too.


Heard a news report this morning on the way to work that there will be a ceremony tomorrow, May 29th, at 11am to rename a post office in Georgetown in Kile's honor. Looked it up on the internet after I got to the office. Unfortunately, with me not being able to drive right now, I won't be able to make it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

National Anthem

I went to my first baseball game of the season today. I hadn't seen most everyone I know out there since September, so after getting side the park, I started making the rounds. I was at the First Base Gate when it was time for the National Anthem. I couldn't help but notice a young man in front of me facing the flag and saluting...

That's his pink cotton candy in his left hand ;-) Sorry it's not a better photo - I had to take it with my cell phone...

Update 5/24/10: Thanks, MaryAnn, for helping clean up the image so we can see that young man a little better!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

More Art I Like: Lepa Zena

One of Cassandra's posts from Friday lead to Cousin Dave's comment:

Think about it: who do you know that buys original art? Very few people do. Very few people even have any contact with original art. Why? Because the art world has turned up its nose at Everyman. Artists no longer make any attempt to communicate with the "sheeple"; their work consists largely of in-jokes that they tell each other. As long as they maintain the politically correct stance in their art, such that their NEA grants keep coming, they need not make any attempt to communicate anything outside of their inner circle.

Now, this is not true of all artists in America today. But it is true of nearly all of the ones who get press attention and major museum showings. My wife and I have made it a point, the past few years, to seek out original art for our home. We go to fairs and shows and such and seek artists who are not in the NEA loop, who make their living by selling to the public. And we've found some refreshing and surprising works. There's a lot of different viewpoints there too. But one thing you won't find is the snarky/petulant attitude of the grant artists. Why do the NEA-grant-supported artists do the things they do? Because they can. Because it's their way of asserting their superior position over the audience. It's their way of letting us know that they get paid for whatever the hell they want to do, and that they have a claim on our tax money, and that there's not a damn thing we can do about it. It's simply them thumbing their noses at us.

I will have to admit, I've not ever bought much in the way of original art. I know I bought a small watercolor or two from one of those street vendors when I went to Florence on a Humanities trip my junior year of high school. Also bought a small watercolor when I was in Seward, Alaska in June 2004. I've seen other original art - larger pieces - from time to time that I do like, but it's never been something I could afford. I have one original piece that was a gift, and I will dig it out of storage when I get a chance and share it with you. Until then, I thought I would share another of the prints I have bought for myself.

I was living in Arkansas, but I was down in Austin visiting with my family. For some reason, we were out at the mall and we'd gone into Deck the Halls. On the back wall, there was a huge print framed in a fancy gilt frame. It was stunning: a big, black horse; I just loved it. I wasn't in a position to buy anything like that then, but I did ask about it. It was called Lepa Zena, painted by Marta Gottfried. I eventually did buy the print, but it's still rolled up waiting to be framed. It's a large piece, and it is larger than all of the other prints I've had custom framed and it's not going to be cheap to have it done "right".

Funny how all the large prints I have have horses in them.... And generally speaking, I likely would not be struck the same way - positively, that is - by the art created the NEA-type artists of whom Cousin Dave speaks.