Soldier To Soldier

I like to think of myself as patriotic, but as I said to my friend Ed, then why am I always getting out of jury duty?

He told me how he watched a film that had a platoon of soldiers placing an American Flag on every grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.  How they use their boot to space them just right.  Just hearing about it put a lump in my throat.

It’s hard not to have love and respect for the military whether it’s past or present.  I think I may have watched Ken Burn’s film Civil War a hundred times never failing to be moved and humbled at the built-in bravery of such young men.

I remember after the first time I saw it writing to Mr. Burns at his home in Walpole, New Hampshire asking why was I so affected over a war that happened so long ago.

He wrote:

If you see the history of a country in the same way you see the life of an individual, then the Civil War was the great traumatic event in our collective childhood…

I really got that.  In other words, we’re connected by the valor of our predecessors inheriting their wounds.

My father served in the Air Force during World War II.  I have letters he wrote to my mother that would break your heart…how lonely he was, how much he missed her.  He longed for a home cooked meal, a beer and a stroll with her on a Sunday afternoon.

She was 17, he 20.

I had to dig them out for this essay sobbing for a long while despite my father being dead for well over 30 years.

Suddenly I was reminded of Mickey.

Mick was a doorman at a building up the block who was exposed to Agent Orange while in Vietnam, as a result, dying of lung cancer two years ago.  There was something about him that always made me think of my father…humility, a quietness – the silly way he told a joke.  I have so little of my dad’s that I’ve often wondered what possessed me to give Mickey his Air Force pin that languished in my jewelry box for so many years.  But I do remember what I said when I gave it to him…

“My father would want you to have this, soldier to soldier.”

Where did that come from?

Mickey wore it for a good three years before illness forced him to retire.  It always made me smile seeing it pinned to his jacket pocket.  I wonder where that little pin is now?  My fantasy is that he passed it on…

soldier to soldier.            

SB

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About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
This entry was posted in Gratitude, History, Home, Love, New York City, travel, Women and men and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Soldier To Soldier

  1. You’ll probably never know how powerful an act it was to give your father’s pin to Micky. Your father, as you know, fought in a war that was respected…Micky did not. I have no doubt that by wearing that pin, Micky finally felt he got the respect he earned. I hope he is wearing it in his grave. Nothing like a morning cry….

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    • I never thought of that, how one war was not like the other. Thanks. I have no idea what happened to the pin. For a second I thought about asking but then realized, it was no longer mine and I’m sure it’s either buried with him or given to a buddy. He used to go to a bar near his house in Queens where a lot of Vietnam Vets convened so I’m hoping…Thanks, you made me feel really special this morning.

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  2. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    I agree fully with Life With the Top Down. It was an enormous gesture – from one man who understood the ground reality, to another. It was great.

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    • Are you a Vet? I’m touched at the response. Top Down also wrote a wonderful piece in honor of the day. Thanks for writing.

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      • WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

        No, I’m not a Vet. Just a woman in Australia enjoying the freedom ‘boys’ (18) and men fought for me.

        I feel greatly about moments of honour though, because true honours in this life are gems of moments with no grandeur, quietly between one and another – only they know, and others incidentally, but another moment of honour resounds throughout the Universe. It’s beautiful, when true honour is seen.

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      • How beautifully said. ‘true honours in this life are gems of moments with no grandeur…’

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  3. rachel bar says:

    How moving! This piece of writing was sparse and got me just below the tears.

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    • I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to do that. It’s funny, I sat down to write a piece on Anne Lamott the writer, and this is what came through instead. Writing can be such a mystery. Thanks Raquel for taking the time to read and express.

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  4. Vasca says:

    My love fought in two ‘conflicts’…Korea and Viet Nam. In June of each year the guys from their tank unit in Korea get together in a different state w/their families for a wonderful reunion. Each year their number shrinks with very few remaining…but their kids, grandkids and close friends keep coming. Next month we’re meeting in Vicksburg, MS. The reuinion closes the third day w/a memorial service…touches the heart.

    It’s a fantastic, moving experience…last year one of my love’s closest buddies told me the most uncanny dream he had about he and my love. He made it live…and we both cried. Those men shared terror, laughter, hysteria and some insane moments…almost unbelievable.

    Our young friends (40-55’s) are always asking M (my love) questions about both ‘wars’ and his experiences. It’s good they’re curious…we don’t ever want anyone to forget that ‘Freedom is Not Free’…no matter where or when.

    Doing things like you did in giving your dad’s pin to Micky was important. My love gives his awards/medals away…along the way… and I believe they make a difference.

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  5. D. D. Syrdal says:

    What a lovely thing you did. I’m afraid our troops coming home now from the Middle East face a lot of the same disdain the Vietnam vets did. The wars are unpopular, and despite all the “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers and whatnot, I still think they feel like their sacrifices are unappreciated. My dad served in the Army in WWII, and when I joined the Navy, he and I became much closer through that shared experience of serving. He never spoke about his time in the service with my sisters, but he shared some stories with me before I left for boot camp. He was proud of me, but also worried that as a woman it would be a miserable life. It wasn’t. I think I still have all the letters he wrote me while I was away.

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    • I forgot that you were in the navy. I love knowing that. I bet your dad penned great letters. Mine did even though now I know where my challenged spelling from. I always stop for a Vet. My heart breaks when I see one down and out still brandishing his card. They should always be treated like heroes every day of their lives.

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  6. Not sure you do awards but I giving you the Beautiful Blogger Award because I think you deserve it! http://blessedwithastarontheforehead.wordpress.com/

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  7. Vasca says:

    Little more, if you don’t mind…Viet Nam vets returned not to cheering parades but demonstrations ~ against the action. More than many never came home from any of the wars and conflicts; their families waited and waited…the returns came in caskets. Those who were more fortunate finally welcomed our loves; after what seemed eternity of days, months and sometimes years! Until the latest battles there was no internet…no cell phones.

    Letters…those so eagerly awaited letters…began many close relationships w/postpersons! I practically existed for the mail. Some, like mine, wrote every day and respondents did likewise. Those blissful, reaching out and touching letters. Every word taken in like the sweetest wine ever. I’m thankful the troops and families have the technology to see and talk to each other any time, any place…

    Reaching out and touching…mmm…how sweet it is. Thank God!

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  8. Arthur says:

    My father was in the Army Air Corps in the war – flight engineer on a B-29 Superfortress on Saipan. It was probably the defining formative experience of his life. Last year I was lucky enough to see one of those airplanes up close – a very moving experience. Thank you for a lively reminder.

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    • Thank you for sharing that. My father flew planes too, actually lost his hearing in one ear. Never complained though. He wore a hearing-aid and whenever my mother would give him a hard time, he’d switch it off. Haven’t thought about that in a long time, so thank you.

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  9. rheath40 says:

    This is lovely Susannah. Lovely. I don’t know how many times I can see or hear a soldier’s story and not get choked up. They fought for us. Sometimes against their will. .Many gave their lives. If they didn’t give their lives, they gave up their mental health. Sometimes their goodness and mercy. It’s sad what so many went through for us to enjoy our freedom. And how many of take that freedom for granted.

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  10. Rob says:

    I struggled with this. Although I can appreciate and respect the individual acts of sacrifice and bravery, I cannot believe that taking up arms is ever a good idea. Everyone who ever did it thought he/she was on the side of righteousness and the others were the baddies. If it’s just a matter of perspective, does anyone deserve to die for it?
    What does history teach us? Wars rarely make much difference to the great scheme of things. Sometimes they hasten what was happening anyway. Usually, we bury the dead, then start the discussion we should have had before a shot was fired. The hype and propaganda convince foolish (though doubtless brave) young men that they’re fighting to preserve their homeland/families/way of life/religion/god/freedom. It’s a lie and they are not.

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    • I appreciate all that you said, but in many cases freedom was at stake. What can you say about Hitler? He would have taken over the world. I don’t like war anymore than you do and the men that had to go whether they wanted to or not, my heart opens wide for them but with all due respect, I don’t think it’s quite as neat and compact as you put it.

      Thanks though. The post becomes multilayered when readers such as yourself weigh in especially this passionately.

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      • Rob says:

        I’m glad you raised Hitler. My father fought the Japanese in Burma. There have always been tyrants and they hold sway for a while but they always come to grief. Remember, even the most brutal of regimes rules by consent. If the people won’t play ball, the tyrant is just another man. WWII could have been won in Ethiopia and Spain without a shot being fired. You don’t beat a tyrant by killing, you join him. Every time we go to war, win or lose, we’re laying the foundations for the next one.

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      • You know, you are a very passionate man, this I can see, and I appreciate all this information. It makes my post stronger and more interesting, so thanks Rob.

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      • Rob says:

        You have a lovely way of telling me you don’t agree. 😉

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  11. Reblogged this on athingirldotcom and commented:

    I’m here reading about D-Day, Gettysburg and Teddy’s ride up San Juan Hill. I’ve watched Bob Hope entertaining the troops switching to Taps at Arlington. It brings to mind my Dad also a soldier and a boyfriend who didn’t come home from Vietnam.

    To quote Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman, ‘War is hell’. …heartbreaking and humbling.

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  12. OMG! What a post! I have been reading blogs all morning and I’ve been on the brink of tears constantly. What I love is that people are commemorating the day and it’s not about the sales and the barbeque. You also have a wonderful trail of comments that layer the post. I did not lose anyone in my family but both brothers served. One after WW2 bringing home POWs and the other after the Korean Conflict (don’t think it was classified as a war). Many of my contemporaries died in Viet Nam and others are scarred in one way or another. I have an elderly distant relative who served in WW2. His mother, long gone, used to talk about when he came home. There was no diagnosis at the time but he had to have the shades drawn all the time. He would dive to the floor at any loud noise. He was like that for a couple of years. It all takes such a toll. What’s worse is that mankind doesn’t learn from it but goes on to repeat.

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    • Oh Kate, this is so lovely and my only current comment. I get very quiet on Memorial Day. I take out all my pictures of the Vietnam War and weep over them. How families still leave mementos for boys who died so long ago. It’s such a moving monument in its raw simplicity, how the wall starts small then rises with the body count.

      I can’t imagine what it could be like to go to war because you’re an American man. Mickey was the most gentle fellow who only did what he was told to then suffer so much at the end.

      Even own dad coming back from flying planes with complete hearing loss in one ear robbed of all that time spent with my mother who grew up while he was gone not really feeling the same when he returned. Not his fault…passion, another casualty of way.

      Freedom sadly isn’t free…let it ring…let it ring.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I never served. My prayers kept me out of the military. I was not suited well for it. I do like serving on a jury and I do enjoy letting people know that it is soldiers who keep us free and fight for us when we can’t.
    Your sentiments mist me up. You do your Dad proud.
    Scott

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  14. Lynn says:

    What a beautiful gift to pass on. I cannot fathom going to war, nor can I imagine what it does to our psyche. To give something so precious to another fellow soldier must have meant so much to Mickey.

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    • I think it may have the way he always wore it. He was such a nice fellow…miss him. Hope you’re having a great day. The weather is stellar here, like Palm Beach even more heavenly without the locals. Feels like a beach town. 🙂

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  15. Elle Knowles says:

    H doesn’t talk about
    Vietnam much but I know enough to hope Andrew never has to go to war. Is that selfish of me? I know if he had to he would – it would make me very sad but proud. ~Elle

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    • I don’t see that coming, do you? He’s such a wonderful boy immersed in his music, doing his best to do his best. He has you and H who give him such gracious support. I know he’s patriotic, such a noble built-in quality, but my Italian, telepathic instincts tell me, Andrew is safe from war 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elle Knowles says:

        You are too kind Susannah! Hope you are right, but you never know what may happen. I try not to think about it. ~Elle

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      • You shouldn’t. Figuring it out is not a slogan as they remind you in 12 Step. And theologian Paul Tillich says, the opposite of faith is certainty. WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S COMING EVER. Stay where your feet are Madam…sew, write, cook, mother, be 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  16. AZMike says:

    I appreciate your post also Susannah, I never served. I like to tell those that did, “Thank you for your service.”
    I was driving through a little Indiana town today, I had to stop for their little parade. Made me proud when I heard their band playing “The Star Spangled Banner”, it is the one thing that I appreciated about 9/11. It seemed to rally our country, made seeing the flag that much more special.
    As for hitler and WWII, my mom told me of going to the theater for a movie and they would show news reels of the the starving people and she could not understand why we weren’t joining the fight. It is too bad it took the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.

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    • I don’t know much about Pearl Harbor. I need to fix that. I remember being on a date and the guy I was with almost went to blows with someone over Truman dropping the bomb, how inhumane it was. I mean cutlery was flying.

      And 9/11, and I remember it well, did as you say rally our country. New York was never so kind to itself.

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