Small Wars Journal

A Thought on Memorial Day: Carrying Out and Being Carried

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 9:45pm

A Thought on Memorial Day: Carrying Out and Being Carried

Keith Nightingale

Who are we and what are we all about?  These two images, more than any I can recall, spell out with great certitude what being a member of the Uniformed services is all about.  One is The Bank of The Marble Garden  in which we deposit our activated blank check of life and the second shows what each person may be who wears a uniform.  There are those that carry and those that are being carried and it is by the luck of the draw which it is.  But it is a fact of service.


Every President enjoys photo ops in the White House Rose Garden.  It is a beautiful, peaceful place where significant actions awards and presentations can be made.  In Hollywood terms-Its “A Natural.”  Yet scattered across our land and in many foreign countries are other gardens, Presidents have filled and will fill-these are the Marble Gardens populated not by roses but by soldiers, sailors, airman and marines who responded to a particular call to duty by a President.  The occupants are the residue of what we are all about and which we pause to remember.

Since our Nation formed an armed force, it has been staffed with whomever within our population chose to serve or was charged with an obligation for service. Ethnicity, religion or social circumstances played no role in the ultimate arbitration-it was service neutral and everyone is treated the same.  Each member inherits and becomes part of several immutable facts that are probably only vaguely understood at induction if at all.


Each member deposits a blank check for life as a down payment and guarantee for what we are.  Each serves with people of a similar mind who become a small family for the duration of service.  Yet each does not know at the time of service that the bonds of that small element will be blood glue as strong as any natural family DNA, and in many cases, far stronger and longer.  This is the benefit of service not fully appreciated by those that have not served.  But that is only marginally relevant.  It is what is.

In time, the Marble Garden becomes populated with those that chose and those that were chosen.  In either case, the individual checks are deposited for posterity, never to be withdrawn other than in the thoughts of others.

Part of the unstated obligation, which is given willingly, is the fact that within that small family, some may have to carry and some may require to be carried.  It is by forces greater than we know and understand that compel that assignment. It is a guarantee that each member who serves will be one or the other.  This is not recognized until the moment of choice but it is instantly understood by all.

This is what is and this is what we should remember.