Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day, two Marines

The groom wore dress blues, his white hat set at the perfect angle, the red stripe on his trousers like a ruler. My father, a Marine from the Korean “conflict” five decades ago, said “Semper Fi” as we walked past.
The bride wore a formal wedding gown, all crystal beads and lace, meant for the white runner of a cathedral rather than the well-trod grass of a public park. The wedding party was small, all female. Sisters, mother, friends? They carried her train as she walked down the curving path to the open-air chapel, where an elderly female pastor waited with a Bible, the groom and the young woman who appeared to be his “best man,”
Like the day, this was a time of sunshine and clouds. Laughter fading to thoughtful smiles.
Fifty-some years ago, my father was a young Marine who married in a hurry. My mother’s wedding bouquet was mock orange cut from the bushes in the yard. He was on his way to a war halfway around the world, and there wasn’t time for elaborate wedding plans or engraved invitations.
We caught glimpses of the wedding ceremony from several angles as we meandered through the park. It was always in view, even if we could have forgotten the parallels. My father walks with a heavy limp, the lasting legacy of wounds and imprisonment as a POW. Once a Marine, always a Marine – he spots flags and emblems, is called now to speak to fellow warriors in a reverse of years during which he tried so hard to forget, to go on with life, let the war rest.
This Memorial Day weekend, old wars keep coming into sight. A movie on John McCain’s POW experiences in Vietnam airs this evening on ABC. James Brady has another memoir about the Korean War, The Scariest Place in the World, A Marine Returns to North Korea. (
He says that war was necessary, Iraq is not.
Another young Marine only knows that his wedding was a few minutes in a park, because the war never waits.

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