Sunday, May 29

THEN AND NOW : AN OBJECT LESSON IN PROPRIETY AND DIGNITY

The inimitable Mark Steyn writes the following in a fitting Memorial Day remembrance of a time when this country had not lost its "sense of proportion," when "the outcome of a war and the fate of a nation" didn't hinge on "one freaky jailhouse" or on "elites" who were willing "to pay any price, bear any burden, as long as it (was) pain-free, squeaky-clean, and over in a week."

A gripping excerpt:

In my local cemetery, there's a monument over three graves, forebears of my hardworking assistant, though I didn't know that the time I first came across them. Turner Grant, his cousin John Gilbert and his sister's fiance Charles Lovejoy had been friends since boyhood and all three enlisted on the same day. Charles died on March 5, 1863, Turner on March 6, and John on March 11. Nothing splendid or heroic. They were tentmates in Virginia, and there was an outbreak of measles in the camp.

For some reason, there was a bureaucratic mixup and the army neglected to inform the families. Then, on their final journey home, the bodies were taken off the train at the wrong town. It was a Saturday afternoon and the stationmaster didn't want the caskets sitting there all weekend. So a man who knew where the Grants lived offered to take them up to the next town and drop them off on Sunday morning.
When he arrived, the family was at church, so he unloaded the coffins from his buggy and left without a word or a note to anyone. Imagine coming home from Sunday worship and finding three caskets waiting on the porch. Imagine being young Caroline Grant, and those caskets contain the bodies of your brother, your cousin and the man to whom you're betrothed.

That's a hell of a story behind the bald dates on three tombstones. If it happened today, maybe Caroline would be on Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric demanding proper compensation, and the truth about what happened, and why the politicians were covering it up. Maybe she'd form a group of victims' families. Maybe she'd call for a special commission to establish whether the government did everything it could to prevent disease outbreaks at army camps. Maybe, when they got around to forming the commission, she'd be booing and chanting during the officials' testimony, as several of the 9/11 families did during Mayor Rudy Giuliani's testimony.

Mark, of course, has it right, as more often than not he has it right. Just read the following, by way of contrast, from "Stars and Stripes" about the latest salvo from the father of Pat Tillman, whose son was killed in action in Afghanistan owing to a tragic case of "friendly fire":

An excerpt:

Pat Tillman’s father called Army investigations into his son’s death “shams” in a letter to The Washington Post on Saturday, and accused investigators of deliberately falsifying facts to cover up Army mistakes.

The letter, which offers clarifications to comments Pat Tillman Sr. made to The Washington Post on May 23, said that calling him “critical” of the Army’s handling of the investigation is an understatement.

“I did not say the Army ‘botched’ the investigation,” the letter read. “I said it deliberately falsified baseline facts — e.g. distance, light conditions, details perceived before and while firing, and the identification of ‘friendlies.’ ”

I cannot possibly comprehend the grief Pat Tillman Sr. must feel. He raised an exceptional son. But I don't think the Memorial Day weekend is the appropriate time to be excoriating the United States Army. There are other more fitting ways to remember the sacrifices that his brave son and other men and women like him have made to preserve this nation.