So you can read my books

Sunday, May 25, 2014

WHAT YOU SEE IN THE DARK Memorial Day Thoughts

"For myself and thousands of other veterans across this country, Memorial Day is every day."
– Air Force Captain Joshua Carroll

Hemingway with Col. Charles 'Buck' Lanham in Germany, 1944,
during the fighting in Hürtgenwald, after which he became ill with pneumonia.

“Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers.”
― Wallace Stevens

No American writer is more associated with writing about war in the early 20th century than Ernest Hemingway.

He experienced it firsthand, wrote dispatches from innumerable frontlines, and used war as a backdrop for many of his most memorable works.

“Throw away the light, the definitions, and say what you see in the dark.”
― Wallace Stevens

Researchers come to the Hemingway archives at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

primarily to examine Ernest Hemingway's original manuscripts and his correspondence with family, friends, and fellow writers.

One object on display is far more consequential:

a piece of shrapnel from the battlefield where Hemingway was wounded during World War I.

Had the enemy mortar attack been more successful that fateful night, the world may never have known one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

Conversely, had Hemingway not been injured in that attack, he not may have fallen in love with his Red Cross nurse,

a romance that served as the genesis of A Farewell to Arms, one of the century's most read war novels.

Hemingway kept the piece of shrapnel, along with a small handful of other "charms" including a ring set with a bullet fragment, in a small leather change purse.

Similarly he held his war experience close to his heart and demonstrated throughout his life

a keen interest in war and its effects on those who live through it.

War leaves no survivor untouched.

Data compiled from diaries and letters will affirm the presence of psychological disorders in soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

From this body of evidence,

it is clear that soldiers of the American Civil War did indeed suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disorders.

Until the 20th century little was known about the emotional effects of war on soldiers

and it wasn't until soldiers were studied psychologically that we began to understand what had happened to them.

The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children. 
-William Havard

It was due to soldiers of the Vietnam war that the disorder was discovered, yet their symptoms had been synonymous with war veterans from hundreds of years before.

Veterans of war find it hard to be the same, emotionally, ever again.

Some may say that their inability to form close bonds with loved ones is due to the experience of near death and the fear that they will leave someone behind.

The emotional effects of war on soldiers very often hinders their future achievements too as they find it impossible to imagine or plan.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
G.K. Chesterton

Who are you remembering today?
That’s the question for Memorial Day,
the day set aside each spring to honor
the men and woman killed in our nation’s wars ...

Men and women who wanted
to see their loved ones again

But wanted them kept safe even more.


  1. I love the concept of Memorial Day and hate its necessity. And grieve that we don't remember (and give thanks) every day. There are no winners in war.

  2. You can't go to war and not be affected.

  3. I agree with Elephant's Child, it's unforgivable that we designate only one day out of the year to pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. Our moral position on war matters not one whit.

    I think Margret Atwood had it right when she said war is what happens when language fails.

    VR Barkowski

  4. EC got it perfectly right in her comment above: 'I love the concept of Memorial Day and hate its necessity.'

    Sadly, I suspect we have learnt nothing. Such is the human race.

  5. Coming from US roots, I have many family members who were in the military. There is always a price that soldiers have to pay.

    Why don't we (meaning the governments) treat them better then?

  6. Coming from Sweden, I have no experience with war and loss. But I once knew a young marine, a poet, who had served in Vietnam. The war was going full force, he wanted to return, he couldn't adjust to life at home. I have his poems still. The most powerful images of children and young men affected by war I have ever read. Anywhere, by anyone.

  7. Elephant's Child:
    I have always wondered why other countries do not have a Memorial Day observance as Australia and New Zealand do.

    We take blood-stained freedom for granted because it is not our blood.

    War is such an intense experience it sears all it touches -- you are right there.

    EC is correct: every day should be one in which we reflect the sacrifices made for us.

    Hemingway wrote: Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.

    But sometimes the dysfunctional in life give us no good choices.

    You're right: Man learns nothing from the past and goes on repeating history's mistakes. Sigh.

    Canada has fought in many wars, and their soldiers were brave and lost their lives from WWI to the present. Being a soldier is a harsh experience during war. The leaders of the world's countries do not have to fight and so they do not care.

    Sweden during World War II maintained its policy of neutrality by bravery and ingenuity.

    When the Second World War began on September 1, 1939, the fate of Sweden was unclear.

    But by a combination of its geopolitical location in the Scandinavian Peninsula,

    successful realpolitik manoeuvring during an unpredictable course of events,

    and a dedicated military build-up after 1942, Sweden managed to maintain its official neutrality throughout the war.

    I am happy your country has been spared the ravages of war.

    War is started by monsters and produces a legion of them.

    I have always been fond of poetry written by bruised souls. I pray your Marine found some small measure of peace.

    Give Samson a hug for me. Your husband will just have to make do with your hugs! :-)

  8. We need to remember them all the day not only on the memorial day!

  9. My uncle fought in the war, and to this day he still won't say a word about it to anyone. Even his own wife. Sad to see how it affects people, and even sadder that it had to happen.

  10. Weekend-Windup:
    The soldiers who survive remember each day sadly enough. It will not let them go.

    A Beer for the Shower:
    Neither would the actor Jimmy Stewart, who an Air Force bomber pilot in WWII. He refused to play in any war movies when he came back to Hollywood.

    The Western movies saved his career after the initial poor showing of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

    The copyright snafu that allowed that movie to be played for free by TV stations ignited its popularity.

    War is a crime that keeps on re-playing in the minds of the survivors. :-(