Geri Sullivan (gerisullivan) wrote,
Geri Sullivan

Semper Fi

Thirty-three years ago this night, I attended the United States Marine Corps' 200th Birthday Ball at Cherry Point Air Station in Havelock, North Carolina. I was the happy, young wife of a man who was three-quarters the way through his single 4-year term of enlistment. The following year, the rosy-cheeked sergeant bade a happy farewell to the Corps and return to finish college with a great deal of financial assistance from the G.I. Bill. Eventually, the state of Michigan gave him $195 for his Vietnam-era service, even though the closest he got to Vietnam was radar school in the Mojave Desert. He referred to the payment as being for the "Battle of 29 Palms."

On the night of the Birthday Ball, I wore a green velvet dress. It had a simple cut, one that flowed smoothly when dancing, and with a sweetheart neckline that suited me well. It's the only dress I've commissioned from a professional seamstress who wasn't already a friend. There may even have been a corsage involved. I'm pretty sure there are pictures in the basement, but I'm equally sure they're on slide film, which made it easy to stop looking for them after checking a couple of photo albums from before and after that era.

And now, thanks to the fact that it's after midnight, it's Veterans Day. I thank all who have helped protect the United States through military service, those I don't know as well as those I do. I thank my father, who sold his motorbike, bought his parents the radio that sits in my living room today so they could hear the war news, and enlisted in the Army in World War II. He drove a half-track in France and was in the Battle of the Bulge. As the PBS website highlighting its American Experience film of the same name describes it: "the single biggest and bloodiest American soldiers have ever fought -- in which nearly 80,000 were killed, maimed or captured in an infernal test of courage and endurance.

I thank Dad's brother, my Uncle Jim, who served in the Marine Corps and with the Marines at Iwo Jima. Jim survived that and lived an eccentric life to old age in Olympia, Washington, following his return to the states. He was the character in the family. Uncle Jim made his own concrete boat, and many other interesting things over the years. He was the sort to have 18 beat-up outboard motors on sawhorses in the yard, and a tall stack of interior doors for mobile homes rotting under ivy vines out back.

I thank my paternal grandfather, Waldo Fitzgerald, for his service in World War I, and his brother, Don, who also served. Don was gassed during the war and lived in poverty on disability in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the rest of his life. " All gas casualties were mentally scarred by exposure," the Wikipedia article explains. That was certainly true of my Great-Uncle Don. The mustard gas not only left him with respiratory problems for the rest of his life, he ended up with significant brain damage from oxygen deprivation related to the gassings.

I thank friends of my own generation who were drafted or enlisted during the Vietnam war, those serving in more recent conflicts and wars, and all who serve in peacetime, too. I wish everyone in the military could serve only in peacetime. That would be astonishingly good. Unlikely though it is that we'll ever achieve it, I think it's a future worth working toward.

Every year Steve Sullivan was a Marine, he wrote out a Christmas list. And every year, "Peace on Earth" topped his list. Enlightened self-interest, you bet.

Peace on Earth, and many thanks to all of our veterans who have labored and sacrificed in the pursuit of it.

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