Beaufort National Cemetery

7D_03879

Thank You For Your Service

Of course it goes well beyond this hallowed site. The human race has invested blood and treasure measured in the billions in an attempt to assure its security. In some cases – such as ours – freedom was the return on that effort. In others, an increased and increasing level of misery and despair.

Days of remembrance, such as this Veteran’s Day in the United States, are pasted all over the global calendar, setting aside an annual slice of time to recall and consider the sacrifices made so that we can recall and consider. In my immediate family those thoughts extend to my grandfather, my mother, my uncle, my son, and in all due modesty, me.  And in my extended family more people have served than I’ve ever come to know or know about. Most of us returned home with all out physical parts intact.  I can’t really speak for our other essential elements of our being – mind and spirit – but if my personal experiences are any measure the enemies we all battled  on the killing fields are vastly outnumbered by the demons we fought (and fight) that followed us home.

Wars never really end. It’s tragic so few leaders manage to grasp a working understanding of that simple fact. Some of ours have: Washington. Lincoln. Roosevelt. And most certainly Eisenhower and Kennedy. Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt escaped the immediate physical pain we have become so ready to inflict on the battlefield, but not the demons those fields release. Never.

And, lest we forget, as it’s written somewhere, those also serve who stand and wait. We don’t have days set aside to honor them. Our leaders occasionally give speeches to address, in passing, their courage and some of our policies recognize the part they played to support their warrior, but rarely is it mentioned that for every one of the stones that planted in our memorial cemeteries there are probably dozens of survivors who mourn the loss of the person lying below. And grief, like war, never really ends.

I captured the image depicted here some months past. In my travels I visit cemeteries all over the country. I read the inscriptions the families have etched on the face of the markers and sometimes marvel at the monuments that some of the residents or their associates have erected in their own memory. You don’t find those sorts of self-centered edifices in a military cemetery.  There are lots of very good reasons for that but one certainly is that most of these warriors never lived very long. Most of them were veritable children. Children that we  sacrificed for the greater good.  That’s about what I was feeling when I sat in this cemetery on the day I photographed it. I was grateful for the souls those stones represented. Not all of them died in combat – but they could have had the dice rolled maybe once more in their direction instead of toward the warrior standing next to them.  There are many ways to serve. And there are many ways to die.

I always think of my son on occasions like this. He is no longer in service. He made it through not one but two wars and found his way back into workaday society. He escaped the perils of battle when his commander-in-chief , who together with his principal advisors had never personally experienced the hell of war, sent him on these vainglorious missions. Humans forgive, but forgetting is another thing.

Remembering doesn’t seem to have had any effect on our affinity to engage in mortal combat as a solution to our presumed feelings of national insecurity. But at the very least it does seem to have resulted in our planting fewer of these stones (for our side anyway) than did our forebears. They engaged in conflicts that counted their service victims in the hundreds of thousands. The war I lent my hand to accounted for them in the tens of thousands. And my son’s? In the thousands. The question is, does this continuing decline in combat losses represent an increasing willingness to seek less bloodthirsty implements of negotiation for maintaining the peace, or is it simply a reflection of an increasing efficiency in deploying the tools of death? The cynic in me leans toward the latter as the answer but deep down in my psyche I’m really, really hoping it’s the former.

I’ll never run out of cemeteries to visit. As much as I despise the reason that many of the residents are victims of political chicanery of the vilest order (doesn’t sound as good as courageous warriors who gave their all in defense of your freedoms does it?) as long as I remember them and pay them homage they will not have died in vain. I owe them that much. We all do. We who also served.

10
10

Olympia

Olympia, a set on Flickr.

The path from the Olympic Peninsula to Mt Rainier passes right through Olympia, the state Capitol. I thought I’d see how it compared to Bismarck.

No contest. The Capitol Campus as it’s called here is awesome. Sits on a beautifully landscaped hill overlooking the Port of Olympia and incorporates the architectural norms I would expect to find. Puts that pile of concrete and glass in Bismarck to utter shame.

10

 

Hurricane Ridge

From the main Visitor’s Center in Port Angeles its a winding 17 mile drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge. At sea level the weather today is sketchy. A little sun. A little rain. A little cloudiness. Slight breeze off the surrounding waters of the peninsula. At ~5200 ft it changes. As you can see. Or not.

I took the picture from the veranda of the visitor center on top the ridge. There’s an enclosed observation area but I didn’t want to shoot through the glass. In reality I suspect it makes not much difference in terms of what’s visible.

A lot of wind up here. No sun lately. Angled rain. Cuts right through you. And yet the Center (which is closed for the season) has filled with twenty or more people in the past few minutes all spreading picnics on the tables in the main room. I drove several thousand miles to not see this view today. Where they’re coming from God only knows.

I hadn’t expected to even glimpse wildlife up here this afternoon but as I sit here writing there is a very persistent hawk circling the area pictured looking for his picnic. I don’t think I want to be reincarnated as a hawk, at least not in this territory.

A large portion of this park is rain forest, something I got a first hand view of initially in Cascades. I’m looking forward to exploring more here. I think I’m going to hang for a few days. Most of the campgrounds are open – and not crowded – but it appears we’re going to get a lot of rain through about Saturday. There are plenty of roofed places to stay as an alternative to the tent. Lacking an illusionary reaction from anything I might ingest I’m going for dry with an Internet connection.

For now I’m going to descend in search of greater visibility. Charles would love it up here. Ruth would be looking for a club to bludgeon me with.

20121018-143901.jpg

20121018-135924.jpg

20121018-135913.jpg

Olympic

Took the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend this morning. Heading into Olympic NP. Temps mild but biting with the winds out here. Am thinking about camping here if it’s not too cold and they’re still some open camp grounds.

Picture is the landing at Pt Townsend.

20121018-105612.jpg

Bismarck

I haven’t yet visited all the state capitols in the US. It’s not really on my list. But I’m traveling along I-94 west today and it passes right by Bismarck, the Capitol of North Dakota. So I thought I’d drive by the Capitol building and see how it compared – especially with the one in South Dakota (which I’ve panned more than once).

Well, if I’d not been paying close attention to the signs I’d have driven right past the place. It’s tall. Imposing. And it sits on a small hill. But it’s not the sort of architecture, at least on the outside, I’d associate with the centerpiece of state government. Pierre may have only one main street to its name but it has a beautiful Capitol building along that sorry street.

This one in Bismarck looks more like LAPD Headquarters.

On to TR National Park.

20121012-173010.jpg

20121012-173122.jpg

Mt Desert Island

This is a shot of the Mt Desert Museum & Gardens. Passed it yesterday on a driving tour of the Southwest side of the island which included some hiking round the Seawall area and some reasonably good shots of the coast in the late afternoon. It was sunny and warm in the afternoon which made the wind rain and cold that blew through later even more of a contrast. Downright cold this morning but the sun is back and the fog gone. Topped Cadillac Mtn as the sun was rising. If the weather holds, hardly the norm, might get a sunset from same. If I do, so will you.

20121007-120417.jpg

Déja Vu All Over Again

Room with a vu. Mt Desert Island, ME. Edge of Acadia NP

20121007-115111.jpg