Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Friday Mornings at the Pentagon


**McClatchy Newspapers**

Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines, sailors and Air

Force personnel have given their lives in the terrible duty that is

war. Thousands more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded

and facing months or years in military hospitals.

This week, I'm turning my space over to a good friend and former

roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman , who recently completed a

year long tour of duty in Iraq and is now back at the Pentagon.

Here's Lt. Col. Bateman's account of a little-known ceremony that

fills the halls of the Army corridor of the Pentagon with cheers,

applause and many tears every Friday morning. It first appeared on

May 17 on the Weblog of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman at the

Media Matters for America Website.

"It is 110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring of the Pentagon.

This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated; the floors shine,

the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant

the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few

sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four

deep against the walls. There are thousands here.

This hallway, more than any other, is the `Army' hallway. The G3

offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 is around the corner. All

Army. Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may not

have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each

other, cross the way and renew.

Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center. The

air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies in

this area.

The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares. "10:36 hours: The

clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of the five

rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the

building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is applause

with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the

length of the hallway.

"A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the

soldier in t he wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his

presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one

leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I

expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

"Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze

and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I

described one of these events, those lining the hallways were

somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private

guilt for not having shared in the burden .. yet.

"Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the

wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I

think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The

soldier's chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.

"Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more

of his peers, each private, corporal, or sergeant assisted as need

be by a field grade officer. "11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of

steady applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid

that sounds in my own head. My hands hurt. Please! Shut up and clap.

For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this

hallway - 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps

only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts.

They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet

for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted

by the generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon getting

out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held

up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience. Some are

catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of

July parade. More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling


"There are families with them as well: the 18-year-old war-bride

pushing her 19-year-old husband's wheelchair and not quite

understanding why her husband is so affected by this, the boy she

grew up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is crying; the

older immigrant Latino parents who have, perhaps more than their

wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for the emotion given on their

son's behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping, is

ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks. An Airborne

Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple of the officers

in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade in the past.

These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our

brothers, and we welcome them home. _This parade has gone on, every

single Friday, all year long, for more than four years._

" Did you know that?

The media hasn't told the story."*


At 12:19 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

The media is shameful in it's lack of showing the true mettle and our appreciation of these men.

God bless them!

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous patrickdaniel said...

The MSM sucks!
Good story AC!

This is daniel formerly of navytown_usa...

You're welcome at my new blog if you want to chk it out, though it's still a work in progress.
Comment approval will be active until you're preapproved.

At 6:52 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

A stunning post!

Despite my living so close to the Pentagon, I've never heard about this Friday-morning ceremony.

At 9:55 PM, Blogger Elmer's Brother said...

good one are you feeling?

At 9:08 AM, Blogger nanc said...

that'll put the wind back in the sails!

thank G-d for these soldiers, all before them and all after.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

Those who mind, don't matter. Those who matter, don't mind. The lsm is a dying rat, and our military are still there, quiet because of the shameful ignoring by the lsm, but still waters run deep. Our troops are still mindful, even if the leftistas will never get it!


At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I am not a fan of MSM, the Army want to keep the tribute as a tribute in its purest sense and did want to publicize the event. No reporters and no photos are allowed at the event.


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