Author Topic: Memorial Day 2014 - The Marshall Stories  (Read 3526 times)

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Offline Luis Gonzalez

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Memorial Day 2014 - The Marshall Stories
« on: May 26, 2014, 07:43:07 pm »
These are old stories.

Nearly a decade  and a half old in fact. Much has happened since, and I've changed much.

Some things however, never change.

Country, patriotism, duty and the selfless sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

These stories were dedicated to them then, as they are still, and to their families, on whose shoulders rest the weight of the world complete.

Thank you all... and may God continue to Bless you, the ones who stand on the wall, zealously watching over the shores, valleys and mountains that you've defended so well for so long.

« Last Edit: May 26, 2014, 09:19:41 pm by Luis Gonzalez »
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, i have others." - Groucho Marx

Offline Luis Gonzalez

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Re: Memorial Day 2014 - The Marshall Stories
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2014, 07:44:51 pm »
The Day Before Tomorrow.

It’s a silly ritual really, yet I go through it religiously; I Spend the last few days of a waning year setting resolutions for the next. I give a lot of thought to the things I want to accomplish over the coming twelve months. It's all the usual stuff...I’ll quit this and start doing that more often. I look at the new year as an empty blackboard, and on it, I write my goals.

I’ve been missing the point the whole time.

I’ve looking at life the wrong way all along. Allow me to illustrate.

Just a few days ago I was cleaning out some old stuff that I have been moving with me from house to house for over twenty years. We are about to move again sometime in May, and my wife finally convinced me that I should break the seals and see what exactly is in these battered boxes. I guess she figures that by the time I get around to actually doing that, the new house will be finally built and she doesn’t want the old, musty boxes in our new garage.

So I decided to surprise her. I would not wait until the last minute to actually do something that I need to do, and she would have to re-think her notion that I am procrastinator; I knew someday I would prove that to her. Anyway, I made a large pitcher of lemonade, put on some old shorts and a faded Bruce Springsteen Tour t-shirt, grabbed my walkman and a couple of the Boss’ best CD’s and headed off into the garage to do some serious work. At least that’s what I thought I was doing.

I tore the tape sealing the first of my treasure chests and looked down at the contents. Old newspaper clippings, college term papers and greeting cards from over twenty five years ago stared back at me, and in a matter of minutes my well-intentioned efforts at house cleaning were forgotten.

Time and space lost any semblance of cohesiveness, as I carefully laid out each piece of paper on the floor with the care of an archeologist unearthing some relics from an ancient and forgotten civilization.

This was my life.

Old High School Yearbooks filled with pledges of undying friendship from people whom I barely remembered, the faces of the vaguely familiar companions of my youth looked up at me from a time long before life became a matter of over-crowded tomorrows and unfulfilled promises. I stared into the fading photographs, and like some absurd, denim shorts clad Scrooge, was led by their ghosts through a journey of self-discovery and painful introspect.

As I thumbed through my Senior book a loose photograph fell from it, landing face down on the floor by my feet. The back read “Grad Nite 1974" and I shuddered as I picked it up, still unturned. I didn’t have to look at the image to know what was there.

It was Marshall and me, it seems that it was always that way then, you wouldn’t see one of us without the other.

The perfect Sancho Panza to my flawed Quijote we were illogical friends, but we were the best of them. I was going to set the world on fire with a song and he was going to learn to fly.

I called Marshall some months after the picture was taken, it was the night before he left to follow his dream.

“Hey, what’s going on?”
“Nothing much. Are you packed?”
“Yeah, pretty much. You coming over?”
“Naw, can’t. Got something to do.”
“What’s her name?”
“Why do you say that”
“Because I know you.”
“You bleep.”

We laughed.

“When do they let you come home?”
“Thanksgiving, for a week.”
“So, we’ll do some stuff then. Like we used to do.”
“Yeah, that’s it, like old times.”
“What about your van?”
“What about it?”
“You won’t need it, I could use it while you’re gone.”
“You stay away from my van. I know why you want it.”

We laughed again.

“Well, I have to go. Guess I’ll see you when you get back. You take care of yourself, you ROTCie geek.”
“Get your hair cut and get a real job you hippie freak.”
“See ya Marsh.”
“See ya, Lou.”

I saw it on my way home from a Halloween party, it was late and the there were few lights on in the lot but there was no mistaking it. I did a tire-screeching U-turn on the deserted road, parking by the Quality Used Cars sign, and sat there for what seemed like an eternity. I walked to the pay phone and dialed the number. I knew it was late, I knew it was wrong, but I knew I had to do this. His father answered the phone, he said he had expected my call.

He hated to do it he said, he knew what that van had meant to him. He said that it had been the hardest thing he’d ever done, but he couldn’t look at it every day knowing Marshall wasn’t going to need it anymore. He said there had been a terrible accident, sometimes planes fell from the skies. There was no anger at the other end of the line, only quiet acceptance and long moments of silence.

Bruce sang the last strains of “Jungleland” as I sat cross-legged on the floor holding an old Polaroid, still unturned. My good intentions forgotten there was to be no more house cleaning of my memories this day. And even as I feared the ghosts on the other side of the print, I turned it and faced them anyway.

Emotions rushed to the surface as I stared into the eyes of the forgotten friend. Marshall stood there looking every bit as I remembered him. A magnificent, unflawed Don Quijote frozen in time, standing side by side to the ghost of a stranger that used to be me, his failed Sancho Panza.

I resolve.

To live each and every day as if it were my last. To love those who love me today, and not wait for tomorrow. To hold them close to me and tell them, right now, that they mean the world to me. To raise my children to believe in windmills, to have dreams and to follow them, but not to discard today.

To thank the Creator for each and every dawn, and for the freedom which they bring. The freedom to make this day whatever I want this day to be. To not wait until tomorrow, or the tomorrow after that.

To live the day before tomorrow to its fullest.

I packed my memories away in the old, battered boxes and sealed them away once more.

I guess they’re coming with us after all.

« Last Edit: May 26, 2014, 07:45:20 pm by Luis Gonzalez »
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, i have others." - Groucho Marx

Offline Luis Gonzalez

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Re: Memorial Day 2014 - The Marshall Stories
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2014, 07:46:36 pm »

It seems that the winds of war are blowing across the world once again, a gathering storm somewhere just beyond the horizon.

I wanted to write a few words in remembrance of the fallen on this Memorial Day, they who sacrificed everything in the name of God, country, and flag, defending God-given, enduring freedom in other wars, in fields and beaches far away; a stern reminder that freedom carries a price.

When I sat down to write, I remembered Marshall.

He was my friend.

Marshall was tall and skinny, with a bit of acne here and there, nerdy before the word was invented.

The kind of kid that lurked in the dim fog of high school anonymity, Marshall was a good friend. Ours was the sort of friendship that would beat all odds and not fade somewhere after graduation day, but would last forever.

I remember when Marshall kissed his first girl, the first time we double dated.

I remember what he wore to the prom on our Senior year.

I remember when we took the van to the lake with Laura Thompson and Becky Jo. I’ve long forgotten Becky Jo’s last name, but I remember she smelled of roses, and how she looked in the light of a new-born day.

I remember the night we discovered it wasn’t such a good idea to mix cheap vodka with Gatorade.

I remember that we both once loved the same girl.

I remember how ridiculous Marshall looked the first time I saw him in his ROTC uniform. My longhaired, unkempt jeans, Led Zeppelin T-shirt, grungy-before-the-word-was-invented self mercilessly and relentlessly reminded Marshall how goofy he looked in his crew cut and spotless uniform.

Marshall played the dumbest instrument in our high school marching band, the bass drum, while I played the trumpet. I would blow the high notes and soar above the music like a metallic songbird, high and unfettered, above the bodies marching in locked step, and somewhere below the heavens.

All this while Marshall just boom-boom-boomed dull and steady right below.

As I sat and wrote down these words, I wondered what Marshall might have doing in this war, how far he might have climbed in rank. And I wondered how he would look at my age. Is middle-age girth inevitable or is it the 10,000 Dunkin Donuts and 15 sit-ups over the last score and seven years?

I wondered if our kids would have been friends, but then I realized he probably wouldn’t have waited until nearly his fortieth birthday to have them. I wondered what his kids would look like; tall and skinny with a bit of acne, awkward and nerdy and self-conscious in their ROTC uniform, like Marshall the day he left for basic training.

That image is indelibly inscribed in my memory; a lanky, nerdy, pimply-faced kid, looking so small and out of place in a man’s uniform.

I didn’t get a chance to see Marshall the day he left for camp, but we talked on the phone the night before. We talked about getting together when he got back and planned a celebration that would put that night with the Gatorade, the cheap vodka and the pretty girls to shame.

Marshall died when his training flight crashed somewhere in the southwest desert. But the memories of our youth and friendship endure undiminished despite the passage of time.

So to honor and remember the valiant dead, I honor and remember my friend Marshall. To me, he represents the very best of us, as do all the valiant boys and men, heroes all, gone, but never forgotten.

When our troops enter the fray in a distant desert, Marshall will be with them, I know it.

He’ll be right there, leading the vast avenging host of fallen heroes. Somewhere in the clouds, far above the smoke and thunder of the battlefield, and just below heaven, BOOM-BOOM-BOOMING away on his big war drum.

From Lexington, Concord and Valley Forge. From Antietam, Cold Harbor, Bellau Wood, Cantigny, and Normandy Beach. From the sands of Iwo Jima, to Inchon, Khe Sanh, Kuwait City, Mogadishu and Kabul, their souls will heed the call to duty. From the green grass of Gettysburg to the poppy fields of Flanders, their spirits will awaken to the sound of a drum calling them to battle once more.

BOOM-BOOM-BOOMING away, unyielding and steady as a rock.

BOOM-BOOM-BOOMING away from somewhere above a formation of metallic birds, beautiful and terrifying to behold, their guns shrieking like trumpet blasts, flying high above the American thunder of the iron horses far below.

BOOM-BOOM-BOOMING the way right into the pages of history.

BOOM-BOOM-BOOMING away, relentlessly and mercilessly.

BOOM-BOOM-BOOMING the way to victory, and everlasting glory beyond.
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, i have others." - Groucho Marx