Another Memorial Day Rhyme

Occasionally, on days like today, I get the urge to express myself — an urge that often manifests in verse of questionable quality (though sometimes also in blog posts of questionable quality).

Here’s today’s offering:

You are more of a hero than I will ever be
You stood your post and did your most so that others could be free
Or ran into the danger when you could’ve run away
Just the sort of hero that we need with us today

Rest in peace, all of you who paid the greatest price
Rest in peace, and may you feel our gratitude in paradise
Rest in peace that you yourself never lived to see
Rest in peace, more hero than I will ever be

Tomb of the Unknowns ("Unknown Soldier") - U.S.
(Image: “Tomb of the Unknowns,” by Tony Fischer, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

For comparison, here’s one I wrote five years ago and posted, like many of my little semi-poetic musings, on Facebook:

To the Heroes Looking Down on This Memorial (28 May 2018, Memorial Day)

Can you feel some of the gratitude I have for you,
And all you did to secure this life for me?
Can you hear me simply saying, “Thank you,”
For all you gave to the cause of liberty?

Can you see the tears I shed because I miss you
And wish you had not fallen in the fray?
Can I ever truly show how much I owe you,
Unless I keep your memory alive today?

Can one day on the calendar suffice to
Plumb the depths of the thankfulness I feel?
Can I count the cost of the living debt I carry
And pay it forward though I’m always in arrears?

All I do today is salute your mighty sacrifice
And raise my glass to you, until we meet in paradise.

It’s not much to offer, I admit, but it’s all I have.

May your Memorial Day be peaceful, and may we always remember those to whom we owe our freedom.

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Excerpt from a 4th of July Speech

Ten years ago, I was the speechwriter for the Acting Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Michael Dominguez. And ten years ago today, on 4 July 2005, he spoke on behalf of then-President George W. Bush at the “Let Freedom Ring” event in Philadelphia.

During the ceremony, Mr. Dominguez was among the first to ring the “Normandy Liberty Bell,” a replica of our Liberty Bell commissioned by Frenchman Patrick Daudon for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landing. The Philadelphia ceremony was the first time the bell was brought to the U.S. (As seen below, it is now on display at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.)

Normandy Liberty Bell
(The Normandy Liberty Bell. Photo by Susannah Clary, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Mr. Dominguez spoke only briefly, and it was the first and only time one of the people I wrote for was directly representing — essentially, standing in for — the President. For the sake of my own sense of nostalgia, and to mark this Independence Day, here’s an excerpt from the remarks we prepared:

Whenever and wherever freedom rings, the world must take note.

The world took note when the Allies stood together against tyranny and aggression in two world wars.

The world took note of the Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage movements, when we extended the self-evident truths of the Declaration — that we are all created equal — to those who had been treated unequally for so long.

The world took note when Afghani and Iraqi citizens voted in free elections.

And in the future, as freedom continues to ring through all nations, tribes, and tongues, the world will continue to take note.

I didn’t attend the event, so I don’t know if Mr. Dominguez actually used the prepared remarks — we learn quickly as speechwriters that what we prepare is often a guide and sometimes just a suggestion! And while the words are not stirring enough to go down in the annals of oratory history, I think they were at least fitting for the occasion.

And for this occasion, I can only add: Happy Fourth of July! And thank-you to all of our troops serving at home and abroad, ensuring that we as a people remain free and independent.

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If I Were My Own Representative, Part V: A Positive Message

This series has been fun for me, like the other fiction I try to write. But I feel that this fiction needs to have a message. So If I Were My Own Representative, I would carry a simple message wherever I went. Whether I got to speak to a Rotary Club or a school or a TV talk show, I would try to take the opportunity to remind people that the U.S.A. is still the greatest nation ever conceived by human beings.

(Image from Flickr, by Elaron, licensed under Creative Commons. Click to enlarge.)

We’re not perfect. We’re not likely to be. We have problems, and faults, and failures, and we’re unlikely to ever agree completely on how to correct them.

But in our ideals — “we hold these truths to be self-evident,” “bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — in the freedoms we afford our people and are willing to help others achieve, and in our drive to improve, grow, and rise above the status quo, I believe we are the greatest hope for peace and prosperity in the world.

I understand that some people will disagree, and that’s okay. If you become your own Representative, you can bear any message you like.

Call me a patriot, call me a fool, I will remain positive and hopeful about these United States.

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If I Were My Own Representative, Part I

For a long time I’ve thought — “known,” in the all-knowledge-is-only-probable sense — that I would do well as a Member of Congress: a Representative or even a Senator. I like to think things through, I try not to overreact, and I firmly believe in our government of, by, and for the people.

(West front of the U.S. Capitol. Image from Click to enlarge.)

I also think that I am probably unelectable. I am not a fan of back-room dealings, have a tendency to speak my mind with some disregard for the consequences, and I really don’t like the idea of turning my life into an endless campaign.

(My aversion to fund-raising and the whole idea of campaigning, along with the fact that I thought the idea was funny, is what led me to start the Anti-Campaign. Truth to tell, I wouldn’t mind serving in just about any office … if you need a new Mayor or whatever, let me know … I just don’t want to run for office.)

All of which doesn’t stop me from thinking about what it would be like If I Were My Own Representative. Hence, this blog series — or what I think will be a series.

Since the President’s State of the Union speech is tonight, it seems appropriate to start with this: If I Were My Own Representative, I could get one of the best seats at the State of the Union or other Presidential addresses. I would fight the urge to heckle — I do have some sense of decorum — but if you’ve ever sat with me at an event you know that, unless the mood is particularly somber, I would surely nudge my neighbor and make snide comments from time to time. I might even laugh at inappropriate moments.

Why? Because even serious subjects can benefit from a little levity. Because sometimes we take things (and ourselves) too seriously. And because sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. But mostly because that’s the way I am all the time, and why be any different?

Besides, I’d just be happy to be there.

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Patriot Day

I was supposed to be in the Pentagon seven years ago today — I’d been in the SecDef’s Executive Support Center the day before, with some old colleagues — but an appointment with the senior military officer in my new office kept me in Alexandria. (My wife seemed very relieved to hear my voice on the phone in the afternoon.) I wouldn’t have been in the impact zone, and doubtless would’ve evacuated with everyone else had I been there. I can’t say that my Air Force career would’ve ended up much differently either way.

My retirement ceremony was in the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Chapel, right near where the plane hit the building. It was difficult to choose to retire during the war, and I still second-guess myself sometimes; but I wasn’t in a position to fight, and I chose to go out while I was as close to the top as I’d ever get.

To those still in the fight, and those who have lost loved ones in the fight — military or civilian, combatant or bystander — I salute you.


LATE ADDITION: Haunting NASA image of the burning World Trade Center as seen from the International Space Station, with commentary.

And I have to wonder why Google didn’t have a 9/11-related image on their site today.

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