By Stan Levin
Memorial Day, 2017
Mission Valley, San Diego, California
Cool, overcast morning
A resident of the hotel,
person of means who would sometimes be called
(disparagingly, or admiringly) a “Fat Cat,”
had spent the night on a bed
for which he had, or more accurately,
his Corporation had popped three-fifty.
His room had a view of the hotel golf course.
For the purpose of this narrative,
with your indulgence, I will refer to him as “FC.”
FC sits down to lunch at the hotel restaurant, with associates sometimes called “cronies.” All of similar means.
White tablecloth, numerous eating utensils. And a view
of the golf course … Go figure.
Many anonymous and semi-anonymous persons flitting about,
known variously as busboys, waiters and maitre d’s,
and always, wine stewards,
all of whom prostate themselves at the service of FC,
and address him as “Sir”;
Good afternoon, “Sir”
Are you enjoying your day, “Sir”
Can I get you our wine list, “Sir”
Are you ready to order, “Sir”
Is everything alright, “Sir”
FC is faced with a monumentally important decision;
Filet Mignon (how would you like that prepared, “Sir”)
or perhaps both today, “Turf and Surf.”
After lunch FC and the others relax in the hotel lounge,
overlooking the golf course, and share small talk
around Manhattans and Cuban cigars.
Briefly mentioned is the apprehension they share,
that the stock price of a barrel of oil
might take a turn next week,
disfavoring their accumulation of wealth.
Some thousands of miles away,and not in the too distant past,
huddled in rubble which had not very long ago been a school,
lay a soldier, a boy of some twenty years, anonymous,
keeping his head down, His fear was palpable,
disabling, overwhelming. He trembled uncontrollably.
A few yards away lay the lifeless body
of someone, a moment ago, he had called “Sir.”
The sniper was still out there, somewhere in the sand,
waiting for this solder,
this target of the moment
to appear in his sights.
But fate chose
that this was not to be this young combatant’s last day.
Back in San Diego,
on this solemn occasion, Memorial Day,
on a lawn in the shadow of the stern
of the retired aircraft carrier, USS Midway,
now relegated to museum status,
stand, as carefully arranged by local war veterans,
row upon row of faux gravestones. Hundreds.
With exceptions, each stone identifies
One of the Fallen,
Ostensibly in the “service” of their country,
in the unwitting service of Corporations in their country,
Men, young and not so young, who breathed their last,
on violent battlegrounds far from home.
In places few can find on a map, nor pronounce, nor spell.
Some of the gravestones are black, with no information.
Each represents the suicide of a soldier
who had survived combat, but, incomprehensibly – to many of us – who had not ”been there,” was compelled to opt out.
(Currently about twenty suicides per day, each and every day.)
He had succumbed to what has come to be known as
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,
The Big P.
Our young soldier, for reasons only he had known,
had taken his own life,
leaving a distraught wife to mourn his too-soon-in-life passing.
“They also serve, who stand and wait”
He was represented, symbolically,
on Memorial Day,
in San Diego,
a black headstone among the others erected at Arlington West.
A brief, solemn ceremony respecting his memory was conducted
by local war veterans, on this Memorial Day.
At the hotel in The Valley,
FC flipped through the morning paper,
scarcely noticing or acknowledging The Day.
His belly and his bank account are full.
His kids are home on vacation from their private school.
His driver is parked outside, enjoying a ham and cheese on rye.
He put down what was left of his drink
and his fine smoke.
“Well, guys, everybody ready?”
“OK, let’s go tee up.”
Ernie McCray says
What an eloquent truthful breaking down of war and what it brings to our lives, what it does to lives.
Michael K Rohde says
I have PTSD and I don’t like memorial day and this thing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. No offense to the author.
Gil Field says
Mr. Levin …. you have hit upon a great secret that our leaders in DC have always wanted to keep a secret, that is, the poor and middle class fight and die in wars so that the wealth of the upper classes can be protected and saved. When you look back in time, there were many desertions from the ranks in the US Revolution and the Civil War, once the troops figured out how poorly they were treated and how likely they were to die while the rich were not.
Thank you for your insightful article.
Great writing, Stan. You put it so succinctly; and so descriptive. Can visualize both men, on the golf course and in the field.