Wednesday, March 20, 2013

President Bush Addresses the Nation (March 19, 2003)

Ten years ago I saw in the dayroom at Fort Monmouth with my fellow USMA Prepsters.

We had been given a reprise from having to attend mandatory study hours to watch a very important speech--we knew our futures hung in the balance. I had just graduated at the Arabic training course at the Defense Language Institute and couldn't help but think of my friends and what this would mean for them. I knew I had four and a half years before I could be called to Iraq
but my friends did not.

A cheer went up in the room when the President announced the ultimatum. Ben--a friend whose opinion I regarded highly--looked at me and asked in a quieted voice "Does no one else understand what this means?"

If I knew ten years ago how many of those in that room with me would not be here today I would never have believed it. If someone had told me that we would have been there so many years later I wouldn't have believed it.

Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?   
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.   
They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us.    
They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.   
They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.   
They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.   
They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.   
They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.
 -Archibald MacLeish

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Mansions of the Lord" performed by the Cadet Glee Club of West Point

In 2003 after my father had died, I returned to West Point stressed out and feeling very alone. It happened to be the anniversary of one of the cohort classes--the year of which I cannot remember--which had fought and lost in Vietnam. They were holding a vigil out on Trophy Point and the day after I returned to school, I joined a small group of the Glee Club to sing Mansions of the Lord for them. 

We were new, the plebes, and hadn't really had time to learn the words and music as well as we would have liked, nor had we been properly taught to wear the sash and uniform correctly. There was a lot of risk assumed by the upper classmen in letting us represent the Glee Club to these Old Grads.

I remember walking out to Trophy Point feeling a little like everyone was looking at me. While I knew it wasn't true, I couldn't help but feel that everyone knew I'd just lost my father and that they were treating me differently. When I finally got to Trophy Point a Firstie, Adam Snyder, came up to me and asked if I could help him study for Arabic during duties that night. I realized what he was doing--he was offering me a way out of duties that would allow me to study for Arabic without necessarily giving me an "unfair advantage". I appreciated his offer and took it immediately, and there began a relationship between him and I that lasted for years--he was younger than me, but far wiser, and remained a mentor as I Commissioned and became a Lieutenant years later.

We sang Mansions of the Lord that day and many days thereafter for graduates who had fallen--we sang it for a widow who had just lost her husband in Iraq, we sang it in Notre Dame the night before a football game when West Point had just lost three graduates in Afghanistan, and we sang it at our graduation concert in honor of my Father who, while not a graduate, was a Veteran.

Between that day and this we have lost many gradautes--friends and classmates--to the ongoing wars. The Glee Club has seen its own share of voices silenced too soon--and just this week we lost another--a beautiful and funny woman who sang with me that day--Sara Cullen.

We sang this song together many times--for for her I repost today.

Monday, March 04, 2013

On Peter, My Star

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” ― Jack Kerouac
I used to love Kerouac--I still do. Just not in the same way I guess--but more like I love the opening coda to the Main Street Electrical Parade.  It takes me back to a time in my life that I remember fondly, but don't necessarily want to go back to

I was thinking about Kerouac on Andrew Sullivan's blog this morning and my reaction to him when I'd first read On the Road in college. I was young and newly gay--I thought I'd never have a reason or opportunity settle down. I thought the quote above would define me--it was, I thoughtmy destiny not my chosen mantra

Then I met Peter.  

I've been thinking about this a lot lately--we've been married some time now.  I'm in law school and Peter is at workand, as always seems usual for me, my peers are much younger than I am. Law School students are generally 22-25 years old, so I'm an anomaly being married and 32. I've gotten myself involved with the Law School Student Veteran's Association and LAMDA--the LGBT group at school.  

We often text one another as the kids (I use that term loosely for groups of other people who are having a good time, not pejoratively or patronizingly) are going out on the town. The other night my phone was vibrating like it was going to die--the guys were headed out and good times were around the corner. I was in bed, dogs tucked under my left arm, Peter holding my hand, his head on my chest and him quietly sleeping

I laughed... there was a time I couldn't imagine the stability and home I have. I squeezed Peter's hand smiled and went to sleep

It's funny--one of the questions I get often from my friends about marriage is something along the lines of "Aren't you worried you'll get bored?" I think the unspoken question there is probably more about sex then livebut what I think people don't get--what I didn't get--was that marriage is about so much more than sex.  Marriage and love--they're about stability--about finding answers to questions you didn't know were plaguing you. It's about knowing that to some degree you've arrived at your destination and that "the rest"...well that will figure itself out, but whatever happens you'll be fine because you're rooted and grounded in something and someone else

It's not purely self-less; it's selfish.  I love Peter because he makes me better, he gives me stability, he gives me hope and strength and I hope I give him the same. Peter's my star now--no more chasing--I have direction. I'm no longer listless and have moved on from Kerouac. I began reading Steinbeck years before college while at DLI but I think I only get it now..
“The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is let them help you.”
And now... instead of being On the Road I feel like Doc and Suzie driving off to La Jolla still uncertain about the future, but OK with that because my compass is true