madshutterbug (madshutterbug) wrote,

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I Knew A Man Once

I knew a man once, some time ago in a previous life. I mention him occasionally in conversations, not often. This isn't usually the time of year I think about him. There are two other times I do, times somewhat more formalised for such thoughts. One of them is Memorial Weekend, one is Remembrance/Veteran's Day (I choose to include the name that a few of our Neighbors and Friends use for the Day, because. Just Because.), and even though I wasn't one, the Marine Corps Birthday. That's pretty close in time to Remembrance Day, so I sort of count the two as one. I've got my reasons.

The most recent recollections are sparked by an entry singingnettle made, though it's locked and I won't quote it because of that. I mention it primarily because that particular entry seems to've sparked a few other people as well to recollect things in these times. I know what I believe and how I think, and I know that one of the principles of where I live and was born is that I can, and so can you. What I believe works for me. Your mileage may vary.

But about that man.

Usually a quiet man, he did allow as he possessed some red-neck tendencies. He took a part-time job as a security guard to 'work them off.' Where we worked together (we both were Federally Subsidised Tourists at the time), though, we didn't see that, at least not unless one experienced the privilege of spending some liberty time with him. I did primarily because we both were billeted in the Senior Petty Officers Quarters.

When there occurred some formal function requiring Dress or Full Dress Uniform, somehow he always appeared on the roster of crew assigned to the function. He usually grinned and said mildly depreciating comments about himself and the need to keep two uniforms prepared pretty much all the time for such things. He did that because it made day-of preparations much simpler for him, just needing to get dressed at the required time. We never stated explicitly the reason he always received such assignments, though we both knew (as did several others around us, though sad to say not everyone) what the reason was.

You see, Federally Subsidised Tourists, given enough time, accumulate little bits of ribbon to decorate their clothing with, though even this is done with direction and regulations. The decorations (and they are called that, amongst other things) are to be placed in a certain order, and position, on one's shirt, jumper, or jacket. Most of these bits of ribbon reflect duration of service and lesser goals such as perfect scores on specific exams (I don't have any of those), and attendance to particular events and such (I do have a couple of those), but there is another class which are not so common. Or were not so common, even then. They reflect the demonstration of behaviors under adverse conditions, shall we say, and further measured those behaviors in a rising scale of significance.

Many of these 'another class' are given not to the individuals themselves, but to their surviving family posthumously. After death. And the further up that scale of significance, the more likely it is that it will be posthumous.

This man wore one such ribbon among many centered at the top of a truly impressive number of rows. A pale blue with a field of white stars, and I am here to tell you that probably 95% of those are posthumous, and I think I underestimate that. Admirals and Generals salute those living with the right to wear this ribbon, regardless of their rank within the hierarchy. Their children (whether it's a posthumous award or not) are pretty much guarenteed admission to one of three particular institutes of higher education, all expenses paid.

And pretty much anyone who ever met one of those few who ambulate by any means after the event that caused them to enter that exclusive group, pretty much anyone will tell you they are quiet, calm, peaceful individuals who wish ill fortune and harm on no-one.

One evening on a holiday weekend and most people were off elsewhere on liberty, Chief and I sat in the lounge in the SPO Quarters drinking beer from the vending machine and watching something on the Tube, talking about some things but not a lot. And out of the blue, Chief says, "Ski, you seen the Elephant, and you never asked me the Question." Lots of people ask these particular folk the Question.

"I figured it to be the polite thing to do," I said. My Dad taught me that some folk might not want to talk about such things. Chief nodded, and took a slug of beer.

"I was lucky, Ski. Just God-damned fuckin' lucky. Most of the other guys weren't, and they did most of the work. There's a bunch of them in Arlington now."

That's what nearly every single person who bears the Congressional Medal of Honor will tell you; they didn't do anything extraordinary, those around them did. Well, those that are alive will tell you that. As I said, the vast majority don't say anything at all any more. Except, maybe, for one thing.

Freedom is not Free.

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