Nancy L. Meek
REACTION TO WORDS OF WAR
This [the words of Christopher Dickey, reproduced below] reminds me so very much of the mental image I saw while staring at your photo [by Thurman P. Woodfork, included below] of The Wall.
I envisioned those soldiers’ corpses, including their injuries, all laid out in a row… like in some grossly contorted military formation, but a prone one… an after-the-reality-of-war palette of burnt, maimed and amputated shells which used to house beautiful souls. In my vision, there were no antiseptically embalmed bodies, decked out in clean, crisp starched uniforms with medals shining from atop their breasts, nor were there any flag-draped caskets. There was simply this vivid image as far as my mental eyes could see of nothing but gruesome human carnage, male and female, all packed together, shoulder-to-bloody-shoulder… or stump-to-stump. I saw this picture of smoky vapor leaving their bodies and rising slowly into the air, resembling swaying smoky hands tapering off into finger-like trails drifting toward heaven. But, the image didn’t stop there. It kept expanding as I mentally added those who have died in current wars and the wars after that, until the sacrifices covered the entire earth, becoming one mass grave.
There was no holding back the tears as I whispered each name to the air, envisioning their still forms and vacant eyes, the lives they would never experience, the children they would never bring into the world. I thought of the siblings and friends who will always mourn for them and the faces of their parents, who had brought them into the world…, who probably spent months trying to decide on the perfect name for their babies.
I wondered if there are any parents who gaze upon their innocent little forms, asleep in their cribs, and entertain the horrible thought that one day they may awake on a future battlefield to a barrage of bombs and bullets designed to transform them into unrecognizable pulp.
And what are we left with… but their names embedded forever on a cold granite wall that cannot hug you back.
©Copyright June 28, 2004 by Nancy L. Meek
Christopher Dickey, writing in Newsweek magazine:
The chronicler of G.I. Joe’s World War II was Ernie Pyle. When he was killed by a machine-gunner on the little Japanese island of Ie Shima in April 1945, after so many years reporting on the fighting, he had a draft column in his pocket that describes as eloquently as anything I’ve ever read the weight of the carnage on those who survived it. He was thinking back on Normandy:
“Those who are gone would not wish themselves to be a millstone of gloom around our necks,” Pyle wrote. “But there are many of the living who have had burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world.
“Dead men by mass production – in one country after another – month after month and year after year.”
“Dead men in winter and dead men in summer. Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous.”
“Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them.”
“These are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn’t come back. You didn’t see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.
“We saw him; saw him by the multiple thousands. That’s the difference…”
Photograph Copyright June 2004 by Thurman P. Woodfork (used with permission)