As Memorial Day 2017 Comes to an End


As Memorial Day 2017 draws to a close it is appropriate to take one more moment and remember the real reason for the day: remembering those that fell, that did not make it home. And given the military suicide problem those that have made it home only to struggle and fall behind even though making it back to seeming safety.

Here is the the Old Guard of the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment rendering final honors, playing taps, and conducting a 21 Gun Salute.

Terry, Greg, Mike, Nicole, and Paula – rest well.


71 replies
  1. 1

    RIP great uncle Donald. KIA June 6 1944.

  2. 2
    Lyrebird says:

    Thanks Adam…

    Trying but not succeeding to find a link from last year from … LGM I think? …about an early Decoration Day in maybe Savannah GA where African-American families risked much to honor their own war dead.

    ETA: Saying a prayer for those living with the external and internal wounds of war, both the ones we sent (whether we agreed or not with the policy) to wage war and the ones who are caught in the middle.

  3. 3
    NotMax says:

    Obligatory annual video.

  4. 4
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    My grandfather’s older brother served in the Old Guard during WWII.

  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Lyrebird: Several cities all claim to have been the location where those unofficial observances were begun.

    The 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances that had taken place in various locations in the three years since the end of the Civil War. In fact, several cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois. In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo–which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866–because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

  6. 6
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I am lucky. I lived and so did most of my ancestors who served. I should save stories for Veterans” Day.

  7. 7
    Mary G says:

    Looking at all the pictures of veterans who served and sacrificed on Jake Tapper’s Twitter feed is always such a shock, because they are so young. That’s why I’m anti-war. Helped my household’s older son, who turned 18, and graduated from high school this week, register for the draft today. He’s still a baby.

  8. 8
    Jeffro says:

    Dropkicks! (holla) Did not know the song as I only catch them live (and occasionally at that) but great selection.

  9. 9
    NotMax says:

    @Mary G

    Is Boson still among that household? And doing O.K.?

  10. 10
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Can’t link photo here, but I put on my FB page a picture of my great aunt, who was a Red Cross nurse during WWI. She lived to a decent age (83 or thereabouts) but I still think of her on Memorial and Veterans’ Day. She served in France; family lore says that she fell in love with a wounded American soldier who either died or was already married. Will never know, but there was always a little whiff of sadness and sacrifice in the otherwise dramatic and funny stories she told of her training and service abroad.

  11. 11
    Jeffro says:

    On a side note, my quite-southern Illinois relatives’ use of the term “Decoration Day” was one of my first glimpses into the notion that ‘the South’ might not just be limited to Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

    Also a great album by the DBTs, so there’s that…

  12. 12
    Jeffro says:

    Mod help plz? (Was it the YouTube link?)

  13. 13
    opiejeanne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: There you are. I came here just now to ask if anyone had seen you recently. Wasn’t sure if I’d just missed you.

    I hope you are well.

  14. 14
    Lyrebird says:

    @Mary G: Yep. There was that one-hit-wonder song, “Nineteen” by (thank you Google) Paul Hardcastle:

    In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was twenty-six
    In Vietnam he was nineteen

    Wasn’t a great song necessarily,
    but it hammers that fact home pretty well,
    and I was of an age to be listening to the radio a LOT when it came out.

    PEACE y’all…

  15. 15
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    As for veterans’ suicides, are there statistics showing what percent of vets from each of our major wars took/take their own lives? Do the numbers of suicides remain fairly consistent, or have they changed significantly?

  16. 16
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jeffro: I have no idea.

  17. 17
    hedgehog mobile says:

    Thank you, Adam.

  18. 18
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Now there’s a date for the ages.

    RIP, Majorx4’s Uncle Donald. And everyone else who was part of that astonishing initiative.

  19. 19
    opiejeanne says:

    I only lost one ancestor to war that I know of, my great great grandfather Union Soldier Pvt Levi Green, 1826 – 1863. Was injured at the first battle of Vicksburg and died in St Louis.

  20. 20
    Jeffro says:

    @hedgehog mobile: Seconded – thanks Adam!

  21. 21
    NotMax says:


    I was of an age to be listening to the radio a LOT when it came out.

    David Sarnoff, is that you?


  22. 22
    efgoldman says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    several cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia

    Sorry, but no place in the Traitor States gets to claim the day.

  23. 23
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: This thread highlights this reality:

  24. 24
    efgoldman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I lived and so did most of my ancestors who served.

    My dad and all four of his brothers served in WW2. Against the odds, all came back in one piece.
    My mom was an Army nurse before the war, but under the rules of the time, she had to resign her commission when she and Dad married ten days after Pearl Harbor.

  25. 25

    @SiubhanDuinne: Yeah, it makes it pretty easy to remember for any memorializing you might want to do.

    @Omnes Omnibus: @efgoldman: Donald is the only (physical) casualty in my family, as far as I know, though there’s a couple of close calls.

  26. 26
    NotMax says:


    Came across a statistic recently that more than 50% of surviving veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan qualify for and have received a V.A. total disability rating.

    More than half. Of (IIRC) ~2 million deployed.

  27. 27
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @efgoldman: The African American communities of freed slaves in those Southern cities, living under Union Army administration claim to have originated the tradition to honor the Union Soldiers who died to end slavery and the Confederacy. I’ve seen some claim that it actually began at Andersonville, where the local freed slaves properly reburied the Union dead and then decorated their graves. It is unlikely that we will ever really know where the tradition started.

  28. 28
    Lyrebird says:

    @NotMax: Ah, me and my poorly-introduced pronouns! That “19” song came out in 1985, says Wikipedia. But thanks for getting me to read about Sarnoff! Cool character.

  29. 29
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @opiejeanne: Yeah, I am here now. I had a great weekend. And yet I wonder about long time commenters who have hot button issues like the way Germany dealt with Greece ( FWIW, not well. ) and how they are treated here.

  30. 30
    GregB says:

    My Grandfather on my Father’s side left his leg and a finger in Belgium. He was also gassed.

    My father said he would get weepy if he saw war images on TV.

  31. 31
    trollhattan says:

    Here’s a Japanese aviator trying his best to prevent my dad from becoming a dad, 19 March 1945. Only five months left in history’s worst conflict but plenty more opportunities to not make it home. Thanks boys, jobs well done.

    Photo of Lt. Perez breaks my heart. So much life in that smile, gone forever.

  32. 32
    Jager says:

    Our family’s service: Revolutionary War, Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII and Viet Nam. Most lived, a few died. I have young grandchildren, my fondest wish is that they can serve our country in ways other than war.

  33. 33
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @efgoldman: @Lyrebird: Found it! Charleston, SC is considered to be the originating locale. It was not Andersonville.

    But for the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city’s official surrender.

    Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war.

    The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

    After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

    The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

    The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

    After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.

    The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.

    Despite the size and some newspaper coverage of the event, its memory was suppressed by white Charlestonians in favor of their own version of the day. From 1876 on, after white Democrats took back control of South Carolina politics and the Lost Cause defined public memory and race relations, the day’s racecourse origin vanished.

  34. 34
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @efgoldman: My grandfather and his brothers served in WWII and Korea. My dad didn’t go to VN. He had no reason to.

  35. 35
    Timurid says:

    As far as I know, none of my recent ancestors died in combat.
    The guy who came the closest was Alejandro de la Garza, who was at the Alamo, one of the Mexicans/Tejanos who fought on the rebel side. He was apparently in Seguin’s cavalry unit, some of whom infiltrated into the Alamo while the siege was underway. He was later chosen as a messenger and thus made it out alive. I’m not sure if his good luck insured my later existence; I don’t know if he’d yet had the kid who would my great-something-something grandfather…

  36. 36
    BG says:

    I live up on the makai (ocean) side of Punchbowl National Cemetery, right below the lookout. I walk that peaceful place with so much history and violence behind it often, stopping to pay respects, mostly to the graves of WWII fallen because of my dad’s service. Memorial Day there means flags and leis on all the graves, and that, and the missing man flyover this morning very close to my condo neighbors and myself, is how I (and we) honor the day.

  37. 37
    NotMax says:

    @Adam L. Silverman

    So old can remember it being referred to as Decoration Day.

    BTW, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971, per the terms laid out in the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968.

  38. 38
    trollhattan says:

    Despite ourselves humans are capable of amazing feats. Here’s Jupiter’s south pole, like nobody has ever seen.

  39. 39
    Lyrebird says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Thanks again!! What a day that must have been.

    @SiubhanDuinne: Others may know more than I do on this site, but my guess is: 1. the further back you go in US history, the less likely you are to get an accurate # of suicides per however many veterans even if you can find death records and 2. for people who do not attempt or commit suicide, the diagnostic labels have changed enormously.

    Reading WWI poetry (e.g. “Dulce et Decorum Est”) gives one the impression that war has always been hell. Some things have changed: Body armor means that today’s members of the military have a much higher chance of surviving (though alas not the amazing Lt Perez) attacks/bombs/etc that would have been fatal in earlier wars. Stop-loss policies iiuc mean that we now have veterans walking around maybe even younger than John Cole who’ve served more combat tours than ever in US military history.

    Lots to consider.

  40. 40
    efgoldman says:


    He was also gassed.

    mrs efg’s maternal grandfather was (lightly) gassed in France. She still has a picture of an incredibly young soldier, in full uniform and field kit, looking all jaunty as if on a lark.
    Her dad flew air-sea rescue in the Pacific in WW2. He got his right hand caught in a gun turret; while the surgeons were able to reconstruct it so it looked right, he never had use of his thumb and first two fingers again, and had to learn to be left handed.

  41. 41
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

    Ivanka Trump HQ ✔ @IvankaTrumpHQ

    Make champagne popsicles this #MemorialDay:

    Turn the music up—it’s a three-day weekend.

    722 Favorites

    You people — talking about dead soldiers when you should be partying, Hamptons style, like Deputy President Ivanka.

  42. 42
    NotMax says:


    Should you be able to find a copy, Where Is Vietnam is an affecting collection of poetry from that war’s era.

  43. 43
    efgoldman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    My dad didn’t go to VN. He had no reason to.

    My dad, who went back on active service in 1950, had to go to ‘Nam to get two years in grade and retire at the higher rank. He spent the whole 13 months in the tent city next to the Than Son Nut airbase.

  44. 44
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

    At the very least, you could be celebrating outdoors like Proletariat Revolutionary Susan Sarandon (photo)

  45. 45
  46. 46
  47. 47
    NotMax says:

    @ David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch

    When last talked with Mom (Friday), she was still incensed that the cashier at the supermarket had wished her a “Happy Memorial Day.” And that she had replied in no uncertain terms why that was inappropriate.

  48. 48
    Anne Laurie says:


    Sorry, but no place in the Traitor States gets to claim the day.

    The story is that the former slaves & freedmen of those states first decorated the graves of those who died fighting the traitors in question.

    It’s like the “cut Jeebusland loose, let Those People suffer, if they want it so much” — an irresistable impulse, but the people who’d suffer most would not (necessarily) be the ones who deserved it.

  49. 49
    Another Scott says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I don’t know how the numbers have changed over time (as was pointed out above, the ways we talk about suicide now are very different than in the past, and that may be reflected in how deaths were recorded/reported).

    But even now, reporting about suicides can get it wrong:


    Media Coverage

    Reuters reports “The most extensive study yet by the U.S. government on suicide among military veterans shows more veterans are killing themselves than previously thought, with 22 deaths a day — or one every 65 minutes, on average.” CBS Washington states, “The results of a new study indicate that suicide rates among veterans in the United States are increasing.” USA Today has this in its lede: “An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day.”

    22 Suicides per Day?

    The researchers found a total of 147,763 suicides in 21 states over the 13 years examined. Veterans were identified in 22 percent of those deaths. The study says “Estimates that the number of suicides among Veterans each day has increased, are based on information provided by 21 states and may not be generalizable to the larger Veteran population. … estimates of the number of Veterans who have died from suicide each day based on proxy report of history of U.S. military service should be interpreted with caution.” The study suggests that 22 veterans commit suicide on average each day while the data above suggests an average of 2,500 suicides by veterans per year or under seven per day in the 21 states studied. The study states that there is a significant state error rate in reporting veterans status. It also reveals a wide variation in veteran suicide rates among the 21 states, ranging from 7 to 27 percent.

    Other Study Findings

    The study finds that the greatest number of suicides among veterans in the data they studied were in white males over age 50. The study made no attempt to determine if those veterans were retirees with 20-30 years of service, or had served the minimum time (three to five years), nor did the study examine the type of discharge (honorable, dishonorable, etc.) the deceased veterans had received. The authors also found that while suicide rates among the general population have been increasing, those among veterans in the states studied have remained constant, with the estimated daily number of suicides decreasing slightly.

    The Census Bureau estimates that there are 21.5 million veterans in the United States. There are 19.3 million male veterans and 2.2 million women vets. The VA study on veteran suicide explores a troubling problem within the community of military veterans but, as it states repeatedly, it is not a definitive study. It does suggest that VA programs supporting mental health in vets are improving outcomes, and that more work is needed.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Suicide is a horrible thing, for veterans and non-veterans alike. We have a special responsibility, though, to do the best we can to make sure that people who put their lives and their livelihoods (for those who aren’t in “combat” but come back broken anyway) on the line to serve in the military are given every beneficial treatment we can (no matter what their age) to make sure that they don’t feel that suicide is the only way out…


  50. 50
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I once added it up and there is only a 9 year period that US forces have not been at war somewhere.

  51. 51
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Oy vey!

  52. 52
    Lyrebird says:

    @NotMax: Thank you! Amazon has some used copies on offer. I may hold off on *reading* it, though, until this ship of state has righted itself, I think!

    Did go read what @Villago Delenda Est recommended — an excellent piece indeed.

  53. 53
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Adam L Silverman: See upcoming post.

    (I held it back for a bit, out of respect for the day — and you!)

  54. 54
    NotMax says:

    @Adam L. Silverman

    Wouldn’t surprise me one whit to find out he thinks the opening lines of the anthem are:

    O say can you see
    Why the Don’s surely right

  55. 55
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

    Born on this day (photo)

  56. 56
    JanieM says:

    My uncle died in Korea in 1952; another brother was allowed to accompany him home IIRC. My dad and a couple of other uncles served in WWII; one was awarded a Silver Star. My maternal grandfather was gassed twice in WWI and spent a lot of time in field hospitals, but came home, married my grandma, had two children, and died in 1926 — at least in part from health issues he carried with him in the aftermath the war. He was 35.



    FTR: Most people still called the holiday Decoration Day when I was a kid in Ohio in the 1950s.

  57. 57
    SFBayAreaGal says:

    @trollhattan: Wow. Thank you for this.

  58. 58
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:


    Stunning photograph. Is that a collection of different gases or a frozen cap or something else?

  59. 59
    Librarian says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I have no sympathy for Mattis. He knew what he was getting into.

  60. 60
    NotMax says:


    Time to change his (other) nickname to Sad Dog.

  61. 61
    efgoldman says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    The story is that the former slaves & freedmen of those states first decorated the graves of those who died fighting the traitors in question.

    That wasn’t clear in the first post.

  62. 62
    Ruckus says:

    @Another Scott:
    The VA does a difficult job with troubled vets. As you stated we don’t do enough for vets or civilians. But sometimes it just isn’t enough. I’ve been through a couple of the programs, which are more general help programs and they do follow up a lot. Still not sure it’s enough but there are only so many resources available. And I was not overwhelmed with the content/direction but it wasn’t bad. The people are first rate and do all they can, given the numbers and that it is all at the request of the vet, who can walk away at any time.
    My thought is that a lot of the problem is the structure of the VA. Who can be helped, what can be done depending on which group you fall into, how long after discharge they can help current combat vets…….. I think there needs to be something else, better discharge debriefing/counseling maybe, employment assistance. Reentering civilian life can be very difficult for some, a lot of them were just past being kids, they get some training and then shoved head first into an unimaginable job, and then back into civilian life, which most of them probably haven’t seen all that much of as adults. They’ve been getting a study, if not huge paycheck, and all of a sudden, crickets.

  63. 63
    NotMax says:


    Have long advocated that an equal amount of time and resources be devoted to unbasic training as to basic training.

  64. 64
    trollhattan says:

    @SFBayAreaGal: @West of the Rockies (been a while):
    Isn’t it grand? Here’s an accompanying article, by actual Smart People! (I kind of follow, if you get my drift.) “Lumpy” magnetic fields?

  65. 65
    SFBayAreaGal says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I served in the Army between 1975-1978. After Vietnam and before the first Gulf War, it was considered the “peace time Army.”

  66. 66
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    Remembering my uncle Pete, who came home from service as a medic in Vietnam with a heroin habit, crippled knees, and relentless PTSD, and who died of combat-related causes in his 50s.

    One of my ancestors fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War, alongside his father. The father survived the war but the son did not – I have no idea who raised his young son, but somebody must have because I’m here. My Confederate ancestor, may he (continue to) burn in hell, survived the Civil War but not for very long.

  67. 67
    Ruckus says:

    Unbasic training.
    I like that. Of course there is a cost involved so that makes it unlikely. Also, one of our political parties talks a good game about vets, all the while fucking them completely. I expect to be tossed off the VA roles some day soon. Not sure I’d take that all that well.

  68. 68
    Ruckus says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:
    Sorry about your uncle.
    relentless PTSD
    I’ve seen a few vets at the VA that I’d guess would qualify as having that. I also saw a number of them (maybe 40 or so, out of about 60 on one ward), when I was in a navy hospital for 2 months in 1973. Wasn’t called that then. Wasn’t really much in the way of treatment then.

  69. 69
    Elizabelle says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Thank you. Glad to hear about the Charleston, SC origins.

    More meaningful than all the grand Confederate statues we’re stuck with now.

  70. 70
    Uncle Cosmo says:


    In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was twenty-six
    In Vietnam he was nineteen

    US population, 1940: ~132 million. US military personnel, WW2: ~13 million, or ~10% of total.

    US population, 1968: 200.7 million. US military personnel, 1968: 3.55 million, or 1.8% of total.

    Dad reputedly had at least one physical condition that should have disqualified him for service. He was drafted anyway in 1943 at the age of 30, when they were taking pretty much any male who was ambulatory, & the ladies on “the Home Front” were singing (or at least thinking) “They’re Either Too Young Or Too Old”.

    Twenty-five years later, any male not immediately motivated to enlist risked being drafted right out of HS or (after exhausting his 2-S student deferment) college – which averages out to about 20. Many were motivated to address that risk by enlisting in a branch of the service which they wren’t likely to become VC target practice. For myself, I held onto my 2-S & then was classified 1-Y (later 4-F) for nearsightedness.(But that was moot: the draft lottery instituted while I was an undergrad never reached my number.)

    Different worlds, different wars.

    Different worlds

  71. 71
    serge says:

    Oh, that top picture of the caisson and military honors brings me back almost exactly twenty years. My siblings and I buried our father there for the worst of reasons. We had no money, my father hadn’t made plans, so we didn’t know where to bury him or how we’d pay for anything. Turns out while dealing with the mortuary, in asking us about his military career the question of decorations came up and we said, yeah, he had a couple of purple hearts and a silver star (plus some medal from the Russians). Within the space of an extremely short phone call, we had arranged for his interment at Arlington (across the river: I grew up in Washington). My father would have been horrified. He had always played down any role he had in the war, and so we have a very few stories. Around the 50th anniversary of the Bulge, he opened up some. That was the area he fought in.

    At Arlington, we were asked to gather and wait on an escort to the gravesite. That’s when things got really strange. There were soldiers in dress uniforms holding rifles, one holding a bugle. Just up a small hill awaited that carriage and horses. Then they took over, and the man who would least have expected to receive it was given a military funeral with full honors. My father was an unlikely war hero. To us he was a somewhat distant (but affectionate) father whose life was consumed by scholarly work over four decades of teaching medieval philosophy. He was massively liberal; we were raised as little civil rights activists should be, and he was very outspoken in his opposition to Vietnam. The one area of his life that he passed on to none of his children was his devout Catholic faith. I think it grieved him that after decades of Catholic education, we would have none of it. But he respected it.

    So, a liberal war hero gets laid to rest at Arlington and, for the time the planet has left to it, he lies on a hill overlooking the institution he was a huge part of for over forty years. That much is poetry.

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