Riding With PFC Chance

I got this in my email box a few days ago, and set it aside to try and verify its source. I didn’t get around to it (as I should have) and Blackfive beat me to it.

So let me send you over there to see how typical Americans react to our war dead, at the recent funeral of a Marine.

I post this both as a way of showing my own regard for our troops, those alive and well and those who are not, and as a cautionary reminder to those who may share many of my politics, but not my respect for the troops and the cause in which they fight.

The service was a fitting tribute to this hero. When it was over, we stood as the casket was wheeled out with the family following. The casket was placed onto a horse-drawn carriage for the mile-long trip from the gym, down the main street, then up the steep hill to the cemetery. I stood alone and saluted as the carriage departed the high school. I found my car and joined Chance’s convoy.

The town seemingly went from the gym to the street. All along the route, the people had lined the street and were waving small American flags. The flags that were otherwise posted were all at half-staff. For the last quarter mile up the hill, local boy scouts, spaced about 20 feet apart, all in uniform, held large flags. At the foot of the hill, I could look up and back and see the enormity of our procession. I wondered how many people would be at this funeral if it were in, say, Detroit or Los Angeles—probably not as many as were here in little Dubois, Wyoming.

I’m not sure that’s true. But even the fact that it might be is a damn shame.

Regardless of how we feel about Bush or Kerry, regardless of whether we agree with the decision to go to war, we all owe the men and women in uniform our regard and affection.

13 thoughts on “Riding With PFC Chance”

  1. Thanks for linking to “Taking Chance Home” (I linked to it myself this morning). It deserves as much visibility as it can be given.

    …we cannot dedicate–we cannot consecrate–we cannot
    hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here,
    have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

  2. I grew up in a small town (3,000 pop) in eastern Washington. It was also the home town of the first soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. There’s a small park dedicated to him right on the main road as you enter the town. He grew up with my nieces, who were cheerleaders for the football team he played on. But I’m heartsick about what’s happening now, and I’m not really talking about the military situation.

    I am concerned about whether or not what we’re doing in Iraq has any chance of democratizing the Middle East. The President is, apparently, attempting to hand off the organizational and political component of the effort to the United Nations, who in turn seems to have taken a course, under the direction of Brahimi, that will soon wreck it. The details matter. Add to that the fact that Iraqis seem more ready to blame the US for the “troubles” than to take steps (even with our assistance and aid) to put things right.

    If we are being asked to bankroll, through our blood and treasure, some half-assed unworkable UN design (such as the proposal for national party-slate elections) then I have to say I’d just as soon the troops came home. We may eventually need them here. I have no idea why Bush is promoting this UN nonsense, especially now with the UNSCAM Oil-for-Food scandal breaking, and with the UN’s abyssmal track record of standing up to shadows of shadows of dangers.

    Larry Diamond from Hoover, about as big a booster for expanding democracy as there is anywhere, and whose opinion I respect a great deal (and who also spent several months in Iraq recently as an advisor to the Coalition) now no longer thinks the project is even worth his time. This is someone who was there, and who knows what’s going on, not someone listening exclusively to biased and slanted news sources.

    Yeah, we can win the military battle handily, but why should we, if the political effort is incompetent?

    We need an alternative to the UN, and we need it now. We also need a bipartisan war council, and since the politicians seem reluctant to do it persaps they need some sort of BIG SHOVE from the people. Like… soon.

  3. Scott, the sad thing is, the power broker we needed to work with wouldn’t meet with us. They only wanted to meet with Brahimi. So we had no choice. As Gerecht says, lose the Shia, and we lose Iraq.

  4. Well, we’re nominally both of the left, and I’ll bet that more of them are registered Democratic, as I am, than registered Republican.

    There’s a slight but noticeable amount of overlap between activists who are engaged there and activists in more mainstream organizations of the left.

    A.L.

  5. Dubois, WY is an interesting city. Haven’t been there since the 1980’s. It would be a good place to grow up, but not an easy place to live. Life was pretty simple and basic when I knew Dubois. It might well have bored city folk, especially those from the left and right coasts, to tears. They might well have died of frustration. Don’t know what it’s like there now, but the people of that time, like the parents of this Marine, likely are little different.

    I wonder if they understand the great controversy and headline news about the photographying of flag draped coffins? I wonder if they would have cared. Like A.L. I wonder if those who support or oppose the war really know what it’s about. There are other stories like that told of this Marine on the net. Perhaps being a vet is an advantage, but intelligent people can learn from things they read. But such stories obviously lack the attraction of all the budding conspiracy theories. I saw a post in one forum titled “CIA Killed Pat Tillman.” Wonder if his wife and parents read that or something similar?

    Some who returned from Nam via San Diego didn’t run the gauntlent of young women in their late teens and early twenties anxious to spit on each as they passed by. Some returning vets took another route while others went that way on purpose so they could do some spitting (and then some) of their own. Whether or not the spitting, on either side, was satisfactory I never learned.

    I read this story earlier and am glad to see it linked here. It obviously doesn’t have the interest of other things happening in our world. Pretty boring really. And it’s too long, but I think I’ll read it again.

    How about a mediocre and boring LJ or a soldier’s blog? Anyone reading those things. Found this one the other day. Young female is the writer so if you oppose women in the role of warriors you may want to skip it:

    User Info (in case you can’t navigate LJ)

    http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=ginmar

    Ginmar’s LJ

    http://www.livejournal.com/users/ginmar/

    Ginmar spends a lot of time riding around in a humvee with three guys. She apparently sleeps in the same tent with them (they ignore each other) and unfortunately all three of them snore. It’s not a glamourous story. She thinks out loud with her fingers on her laptop’s keyboard. She wrote a lengthy story she’s pulled and “locked” because some fools wandered by and wrote comments about as distasteful as those likely coming from the young women mentioned above at San Diego in the bad old days. It was a story of one of her really bad days when she was under fire and scared beyond belief.

    Mostly she worries about stray kitties, finding toilet paper when she needs it, keeping her interest in Buffy the Vampire Slayer alive, and keeping herself alive.

  6. praktike:

    Scott, the sad thing is, the power broker we needed to work with wouldn’t meet with us. They only wanted to meet with Brahimi. So we had no choice. As Gerecht says, lose the Shia, and we lose Iraq.

    So? With that damnable formula we’ll lose it anyway, only we’ll have to pay to do it. It is, I’m afraid, yet another example of the genuinely awful political savvy of the Bush team. I’m serious about either withholding my vote, or actually voting for Kerry. I think it would be a disaster, but I could and would not ask a single American to sacrifice life and limb for that formula. It’s be like fighting the Civil War knowing that the North had made some sort of secret deal with Davis to perpetuate slavery under another name.

    Oh well, perhaps it won’t come to pass. But it gives me a sickening feeling in my gut. Like I said, we BADLY need an alternative to the UN; and we also need a bipartisan war council. Something has to give.

    BTW, I’ve already contributed everything I can afford to the Spirit of America campaign. And I sure hope they start leveraging whatever credibility they have to letting people know that the Brahimi solution is designed to fail. It’s a trojan horse, a Judas kiss, whatever.

  7. Then there is the reaction of original Americans as well.

    http://www.tsalagi-atsilvsgi.net/Lakota_Warrior.html

    Sheldon Ray Hawk Eagle was carried to the Heart of
    all that is, Paha Sapa, the Black Hills and laid to rest as
    warrior with honor, dignity and respect.
    His body was carried by a horse- drawn cart.
    His coffin covered with a flag and eagle feathers.

    A riderless horse draped with a red, white and blue
    blanket waited with the horse drawn cart.
    The horse, called a spirit horse will carry the warrior
    swiftly to heaven. The horse wears an Eagle feather,
    to represent Sheldon, for the thoughts of a man that should
    rise as high as do the eagles and his sacrifice for his Nations.
    It is the highest honor given to a warrior.
    Sheldon descends from Tshunka Witko.
    Chief Crazy Horse who helped defeat
    Lt. Col.George Armstrong Custer, at the
    Battle of Greasy Creek (Little Big Horn).

    The coffin and the pall bearers were purified with
    sweetgrass. Each of the twelve, wore yellow ribbons
    tied around their arms.
    The Lakota people are a warrior people. It is an honor
    to be a warrior and protect your land, your freedom and
    your family. Because they were here first,
    they love the land more than any other race.
    This Lakota Warrior made the ultimate sacrifice
    for both his Nations.
    For 18 hours, an overnight vigil, hundreds of Tribal
    members listened to both Christian and Lakota
    prayers and honor songs by drum groups.
    There were giveaways and feasts.
    At sunrise, a two hour funeral, followed by a three
    hour procession, carried Hawk Eagle’s body
    one hundred and fifty miles to the Black Hills,
    the heart of all there is in Lakota tradition.
    Color guards from the Cheyenne River, Rosebud,
    Standing Rock, Oglala and Sisseton Wahpeton
    tribes bore the flags of the Nations.
    Proof of the family’s goodwill was evident,
    when they began giving away jars, vases, and
    baskets of flowers that had been sent.
    They handed out bouquets to the elders and then
    one flower for each of the mourners to press in the
    memorial program in remembrance.
    Pillows, towels, baskets bowls and household goods
    were passed out to the hundreds in attendance.
    Giveaways are traditional among the nations during
    important occasions. It is the Lakota way.
    Sheldon’s sister, Frankie and their relatives,
    stood to drape stack after stack of
    Lakota Star quilts over friends and elders.
    The Lakota have a relationship, with the Big Dipper
    constellation. In Lakota culture, it is said to help the
    deceased on their way to the spirit world.
    The family completed the giveaway and faced the east.
    Mitakuye Oyasin, all my relatives, began the elder.
    Tunkasila, (grandfather)
    We pray for this day, your wisdom and not our own.
    We pray for one mind and one spirit.
    Aho
    On a small table to the right, lay a bronze star and
    a purple heart awarded to Sheldon.
    The trills and honor songs, speaking his Lakota name,
    “Wanbli Ohitika” (Brave Eagle). pierced the air.
    The women and the elders lined the procession route,
    draped with the star quilts in his honor

    The riderless horse, with boots backward in the
    stirrups symbolizing a fallen soldier.
    Indian drums and honor songs welcomed the hero
    to the sacred Paha Sapa, his final resting place.
    As he was being buried, a Black Hawk helicopter flew
    over the cemetery, lingered in the snowy hills.
    It flew into the heart of all that is,
    and was gone.
    ~~Somehow, it did not seem like enough.~~
    **************************************************

    http://www.custermuseum.org/News/descendantsofCrazyHorse.htm

    Oglala riders retrace history
    June 25, 2003, Last modified June 25, 2003 – 3:11 am

    By JAMES HAGENGRUBER
    Of The Gazette Staff
    CROW AGENCY – The descendants of Crazy Horse trotted across 360 miles of prairie for a chance to charge up Last Stand Hill early this morning.

    The 20 riders of the Great Sioux Nation Victory Ride set out June 9 from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. They wanted to take a slow, contemplative path to the battlefield where their ancestors found victory 127 years ago.

    It was a chance to remind the tribe’s young people of the one unmistakable outcome of the battle, rider Doug War Eagle said.

    “We’re still here,” he said.

    Tuesday night the riders pitched tents in a cottonwood grove along the Little Bighorn River, about 400 yards from where Crazy Horse and his family camped. Not far away camps were filled with horsemen and women from other tribes.

    They will all be galloping across the battlefield today to mark the Indian Memorial dedication. Horses were vital in Plains Indian culture, and it’s only fitting they play a starring role in the dedication, said Kitty Belle Deernose, curator of the battlefield museum.

    “Indian people are still very much a horse culture,” she said.

    The Crow are sending 200 riders, including one riderless horse to honor Pfc. Lori Piestewa, a Hopi soldier who was mortally wounded in a March 23 ambush in Iraq. She was the first American Indian servicewoman killed in action.

  8. I also recall Pfc. Lori Piestewa. There are too many “firsts” and “special people” associated with this war. In fact they are all special people.

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