combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 06 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2008

Basecamp Memorial

"As life exists only by death, so truth exists only by mystery ... the revealed secret knowledge will shock you into understanding. This awakening will change you, and your relationships, until all things have a new meaning."
chaplain's insight

From the region of fresh haircuts and polished insignia, of salutes and starched fatigues, of deodorant and air-conditioning, a chairborne chaplain arrived to commemorate the dead of an engagement in our compound, which still marks the unit's greatest losses. His rank was supposed to impress us with his reverence, since the brass hats had sent their senior sky-pilot as a declaration of sincerity, and we were supposed to respect his salt-and-pepper pudginess, but his pious discomfiture prevented his succor. He uttered platitudes and revived proprieties about eschatological abstractions as we tried to see past the liturgy to the lost faces of our teammates. His dowdy uniformity bespoke a miserable mortal hopelessly enduring a wretched tour of duty, and his prayers must have been for a swift reassignment to some terrestrial paradise. He was supposed to mourn those he'd never known, and memorialize names he didn't even bother to memorize for the ceremony. This God-squad pathfinder couldn't have reassured an atheist in a foxhole, or found his way to Martin Luther's privy unescorted, so how could we trust the salvation of our comrade's souls to his care? A ceremony is needed so the mourners can extend themselves in the consolation of others, as much as witnessing the significance of death, and sharing their loss. Later that night, in a portentous admixture of Mormons and Buddhists, Jews and Catholics, Baptists and Pantheists, we held a condign memorial over the teamhouse bar, long after the bad taste of the formal ceremony had been rinsed away. The complaints and accusations, the excuses and recriminations, the conjectures and investigations would later follow our allopathic doses, but that night, with bandages and dirt still prominent, we told stories about the departed, and remembered their essential worth. Their transcendence was our immanent revelation, our contingent apprehension, our inspired inculcation; and their names would become part of the agglomeration of wartime detritus.

"Chaplain, chaplain, eh? You have been praying these many years to go to heaven, and now when you have a chance to get there in fifteen minutes, you are running away!"
by Jubal Anderson Early (to deserting chaplain at May 1864 Battle of the Wilderness)

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.

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C O M B A T, the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones