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Ben H. English

Ben H English~

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
–C.S. Lewis

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? WHAT MEMORIAL DAY MEANS TO ME…

Uncle Charlie was my favorite kin on Mom’s side of the family. A gentle, thoughtful man who loved a good college football game; he was sure to get a visit if I was passing anywhere near Uvalde.

Sometime after leaving the Marines, I stopped by and in the course of our conversation he asked me if I might go back. I answered that I could not say, it depended if my country called. He looked at me and asked; “Don’t you think seven years is enough?”

I’ve pondered upon that question ever since, and it preys upon my mind the most when Memorial Day comes around.

Just how much is enough?

My first thought is of the five Sullivan brothers who went down together on the USS Juneau, off the coast of Guadalcanal during the early days of World War II. Every son gone from that single family, leaving nothing but five gold stars in a window.

Dear God, losing one is a tragedy beyond description. But all five?

How much is enough?

Then I think of my old Scout-Sniper partner and Marine extraordinaire, Gary ‘Injun’ Wade. He lost two brothers; one in the Air Force and the other in the Navy. His Mom has two gold stars in her window.

How much is enough?

I think of my old highway patrol sergeant, Carl W. Mayfield. Not only was he a sergeant in the Texas Highway Patrol, but also a first sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve. In Iraq, his greatest personal pride was in bringing back the same number of Marines he left with.

Carl also brought back an untreated stomach cancer, because he didn’t want to leave those Marines. That cancer killed him shortly thereafter just as surely as any bullet, leaving behind a wife and two teenaged sons.

How much is enough?

Carl and I had a mutual friend, Sergeant Major Pat Sirois, First of the Seventh of the United States Army. He served with honor in faraway fields of conflict such as Bosnia and Iraq, as well as others. Pat retired from the Army and joined the DOD Civilian Police at Fort Hood. He was one of the responders to the gut-wrenching terrorist attack that occurred there, perpetrated by a traitor that was supposed to be one of their own.

Sometime later, Pat was killed while assisting a stranded motorist.

How much is enough?

I think of Leo Zeola, United States Navy. Leo flew Wildcat fighters during World War II aboard the USS Gambier Bay, the only American aircraft carrier ever sunk by enemy gunfire. He spent three days in shark-infested waters, swimming from life raft to make-shift life raft to check on his men.

After the war he was gravely injured in an aircraft carrier landing. His convalescence took over a year, but he came back to active duty and became a pioneer of that time in Anti-Submarine Warfare. He ultimately retired as a captain in the Navy and passed away some years ago.

How much is enough?

I could go on, but shall finish with one more thought. It is of a simple white wall, situated among a quiet grove of trees just outside of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The spot is guarded by the bronze statue of a solitary Marine, from my era in combat gear.

This wall is part of a complex that makes up the area’s memorial place for the fallen, and is inscribed with four words: ‘THEY CAME IN PEACE.’ Also inscribed are the names of 273 men, who tried to bring that peace to a war-torn land that knew not the word.

It is called the Beirut Memorial.

The irony in this is it is a peaceful, even serene place to be. You sit and you contemplate on those names; the ones you knew and those who someone else did. All sons of mothers and fathers with a gold star in their window, grieving with a wound to the spirit that hurts so especially much around this time of the year.

People move through in almost total silence, stopping to point out one of those names to someone with them, or perhaps lay a hand on an engraved piece of rock as if to reach out through time and space and death itself; trying to connect with a long-departed soul on the other side.

How much is enough?

I still do not know.

Ben H. English
Alpine, Texas
USMC: 1976-1983
THP: 1986-2008
‘Semper Fi ‘Til The Day I Die’

Author of ‘Yonderings’ (TCU Press)
‘Destiny’s Way’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘The Uvalde Raider’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
Facebook: Ben H. English
Webpage: benhenglish.com

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By KINDNESS WISDOM

Life is like a bunch of roses. Some sparkle like raindrops. Some fade when there's no sun. Some just fade away in time. Some dance in many colors. Some drop with hanging wings. Some make you fall in love. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Life you can be sure of, you will not get out ALIVE.(sorry about that)

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