Over the Memorial Day Weekend, C.W. likes to appear in his inquisitive young man form and visit military cemeteries. Don’t ask why. Something about all those orderly-spaced tombstones fascinates him. Devoted readers will remember the time we visited one in Little Rock and witnessed an elderly vet remembering his lover who had died at Pearl Harbor. He’s probably dead now too. The World War Two vets are vanishing at a sad and alarming rate.
This time we were driving to visit a spot near here where a group of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War era are buried. C.W. was peppering me with questions as usual.
“Tell me again the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.”
I took a breath. “I’ve told you before. On Veterans’ Day we honor all veterans who have served in the military.”
“Even the girls?”
“Of course even gi ... the women.”
“Oh. And Memorial Day?”
“We pay tribute to those who died serving in the military.”
“Oh. So this weekend honors those who died gloriously in battle?”
I started to respond, but held myself. “We’ll see,” I said.
We drove into the cemetery, a sad and lonely spot as so many are. It was there that C.W. learned this was the resting spot for a group of soldier who were not slain in battle but died of a highly contagious disease that ravaged their unit.”
His face turned ashen. “They weren’t stabbed or shot or blown up or something?”
“No,” I said. “They simply took sick and died. That was the case in a majority of deaths during that particular war.”
“Most weren’t killed in battle?”
“No. Most died from disease. There were no sanitary measures taken on either side of that conflict. Filth and the subsequent spread of disease took a tragic toll.”
“No sanitary measures?”
“None. Not even designated latrines.”
“But the Roman armies practiced sanitation before the designated birth date of the Galilean.”
“We forgot them,” “or maybe we just thought they were too much trouble or expense.”
|Would that your wars could be|
so neat and orderly. - C.W.
“Your species let men die from lack of medical care?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“And the leaders of that war are considered great men now?”
“Yes. We even celebrate the birthday of one of them as a holiday in our state.”
Apparently shaken, he shook his head. “Soldiers fighting for their cause but dying because of improper medical care. Is this the way your species goes to war?”
“Not anymore,” I said. “We provide excellent medical care for our men and women in combat.”
“Yes,” he said, looking out at the tombstones. “It’s only after they leave the battles now that the medical care diminishes.”
“I’m afraid so,” I said. “It’s considered too costly.”