Thurman P. Woodfork

HEROES AND HOLLOW WORDS OF PRAISE

Thurman P. Woodfork: Heroes and Hollow Words of PraiseDriving slowly around Haines Point in Washington’s Potomac Park, I see laughing children playing beneath warming skies. Older folks jog, cycle, or walk along, getting in their daily exercise, some accompanied by the music from their tiny portable jukeboxes. Out on the Potomac, Georgetown’s rowing teams practice; their oars flashing in and out of the water in unison as they scull along to their cox’n’s chant.

I roll on past ‘The Awakening’, a giant man emerging from the earth with his mouth stretched wide in a silent yell (or scream). Some years back, a lady lost control of her car and did some serious damage to the poor fellow’s head. This has since been repaired, and he appears none the worse for the injury.

If I continue along this road, I will eventually pass the Roosevelt Memorial and approach the Lincoln Memorial, which looks down the National Mall past the Vietnam Wall and the Korean War Memorial to the World War II Memorial at the far end of the Reflecting Pool. Tributes to the honored dead of three wars are gathered here.

I suppose that soon, there will be a fourth memorial, one to honor those who have died, and are yet dying, in the Middle East Gulf Wars. But now, unlike these other revered dead, the bodies of fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are being smuggled home in secret as though they had committed some shameful act. Their return can’t be photographed or televised; a curtain of secrecy has been drawn between them and the nation.

So many of us Vietnam veterans still complain bitterly about the reception – or lack of a reception – we got as we straggled home from our war. Except for family and friends, we were variously spat at, scorned, or met with total indifference, depending upon who’s doing the telling. Yet we seem not to care about the treatment accorded the bodies of the service people returned from the Mid-east conflict.

The nation goes on and on about supporting our troops and standing up for America, but they virtually ignore this implicit insult. The prevailing opinion is, of course, that these coffins are hidden from public view so as not to give graphic evidence to fuel protest against a war gradually increasing in unpopularity.

Whatever the reason, I think it’s indecent that our fallen sons and daughters should be smuggled home so ignominiously, as though they are unseemly objects that need to be hidden away and disposed of as soon as possible. It reflects badly on America.