Memorial Day

This morning I went to a local Memorial Day ceremony. In San Marino, not my own town of Monrovia (San Marino’s began at 9am with an appearance from my congressman, David Dreier.) Though I didn’t know it when I made plans, Dreier had 7 Memorial Day ceremonies to attend today. I got to speak with him for a moment beforehand. Of all the things that I could talk with my congressman about, what did I choose? To discuss digital longevity and how laws get made allowing manufacturers to cripple the equipment. I tried to give him a printout of this BoingBoing post describing how Clay Shirky gave a talk, which Mary Hodder videotaped. She gave him a DVD of it so that he could get it transcribed. But when he went to convert the DVD’s contents to another form, he wasn’t able to. An alert came up: Can’t do that. Copyright violation. Even though it was his own stuff. But after an all-too-brief description of it, Dreier gave it back to me. Traveling light, I guess.

I was very relieved when Dreier said that there’s a middle way, and that there’s gotta be ways to use and work with your own media that you made yourself. Since digital “lasts forever, or 5 years, whichever comes first,” I did emphasize the necessity of copying from DVD to DVD, in order to preserving the bits that are on that DVD beyond the lifetime of the physical media.

What does digital longevity have to do with Memorial Day? Well, this is one way of remembering. And making sure that the technology that we’re working with today can last 80-odd years into the future, in the attics of our lives.

. . . . .

All that took place before the ceremony began. Dreier spoke (and then left), and others spoke, including San Marino resident Ed Blecksmith, father of JP Blecksmith, who died in Fallujah a little over 18 months ago. The days and weeks and months do not ease the grief, he said, but he recounted tributes in his son’s name and the establishment of a foundation in his name.

The most moving part of the proceedings (this is the first time I’ve attended a Memorial Day ceremony) was the recognition of all the veterans dispersed in the crowd. Each one stood up and said his name, his branch of service, time and location of service. And it filled me with awe, the places some of these men had been. Plenty of Korean War vets, Vietnam Vets, and Veterans from WorldWar 2. And a handful of those who’ve served more recently. There was a man who’d fought and been captured in Bataan; he was a prisoner of war for 2 or 3 years. A man who’d landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. A man who’d been in the battle of the bulge. (We ate cheese and crackers for Christmas, surrounded by Germans, he said.) A man from Holland who was not a veteran, but who was freed by U.S. Forces, and wished to thank United States soliders.

I thought of the Veterans Oral History project. Wondered if these stories have been told and recorded.

I was glad that I went. And though I am very troubled by the war in Iraq, and the direction it’s taking, it doesn’t stop me from honoring the individuals who go and fight, whether recently or in times past, and honor the memories of those who’ve died in battle.

I think the germ of this idea (observe Memorial Day beyond the standard BBQ or whatever) came at the LA Times Festival of Books when I attended the Personal Stories from Iraq session, and heard from Paul Rieckhoff (Chasing Ghosts) and John Crawford (The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell). They spoke about the all-too-real consequences of war. Of the changing rules of engagement and moral uncertainty. Paul Rieckhoff described a firefight on the day that Uday and Qusay Hussein were captured and killed. There was gunfire. They didn’t know (until it was too late) that it was celebratory gunfire; they thought they were under attack. There are seldom good decisions, he said, just decisions that are less bad. Both Rieckhoff and Crawford spoke about things that they did to help win hearts and minds, and how the opportunities to do real lasting good slipped away in the summer of 2003 — for lack of resources.

Most important, in their descriptions of what it’s been like, they emphasized the responsibility of the people of this nation to members of the armed services, now that we are at war. Take care of the veterans. Yes, soldiers’ heads get messed up. But. that’s. what. happens. when. you. go. to. war. Those are the consequences. (Don’t decide lightly to engage in war because that’s what happens) And whether you’re pro-war or anti-war, you need to honor the obligations to the soldiers, to the veterans, and keep the events of this war at the forefront (on the front page every day), and to honor the fallen.

And so I went. And I’m glad — very glad — that I did.

3 responses to “Memorial Day”

  1. Bro-ski

    Cool post. I’m glad you went, too. Thanks for sharing that with us. And yeah, your ideas and plans for promoting oral history definitely have a place with the Vets.

  2. Susan A. Kitchens

    Dude. hey, I mentioned you in passing when Congressman Dreier stood with his two military academy nominees– one of whom is headed to USAFA. I said, “Cool! My brother went there!”

    But back on topic, Dude. Get ready to be recruited… I’d love it if you were to interview a certain Air Force Colonel we both know.

  3. 2020 Hindsight » Memorial Day events in the San Gabriel Valley

    […] the first time ever, last year I attended Memorial Day ceremonies. Blogged it here. I recorded a brief conversation with my congressman and it’s part of a podcast I did A tale […]