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REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

3/05/2008

Another Trooper Goes Home

Another Trooper Goes Home.jpg

Euro-American Scum, a regular contributor here, has sent me the following essay for publication, along with this comment:

If you could so inform your readership that, due to my limited Internet access, I cannot engage in prolonged discussion, I'd also be grateful. I do enjoy the banter ... I can't tell you how much I miss being a regular contributor, and how I do so look forward to getting back to it someday.

I’d like to offer you just a little very brief background before you read the essay:

E-A-S is a Vietnam vet with a passion for studying American history, with a strong and devoted emphasis on the history of World War II. He traveled to Normandy, and beyond, in 2004 to participate in the observation of the sixtieth anniversary of the Normandy invasion and to pay his respects to the victims of the Holocaust. In doing so, and as a result of other personal contacts with countless World War II heroes, E-A-S has developed a personal knowledge of that War, its significance and effects, and its participants, that few of us share.

E-A-S has recently found himself the victim of the 'new American economy', in which the outsourcing of hi-tech jobs and the condoning of criminal job-seekers who ‘will do the work Americans refuse to do’ has become the tragic norm. As a result, he has fallen on hard times. Thus his request that I inform readers here that he has limited internet access, and cannot engage in prolonged discussion.

-- Another Trooper Goes Home --

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us “To everything there is a season, A time to every purpose under heaven.” The Bible goes on to cite the various circumstances that life’s inescapable journey brings us to confront. And since the verses which follow have long since been immortalized by The Byrds in a 1960s pop/rock mega-hit, I’m sure a good many of you on the high side of 50 can recite them by rote. If not, you can look it up when you get a chance. I won’t waste precious bandwidth repeating the text of the Scripture here. Everybody benefits from reading the Bible.

One of the dubious joys of getting older is that we inevitably get increasing opportunities to attend various benchmark events in our own experience and the lives of others. Early on, most of these events are weddings. After all, we’re just starting out on our journey. And so are most of the people we know. Fast on the heels of such celebrations are the inevitable baby showers, christenings, dedications and so forth. First communions, bar mitzvahs, and various other rites of passage follow (faster than we would like to admit, I’m sure). Then, as we approach mid-life, there are high school graduations, college commencements, weddings of our kids, and the baby showers, christenings and dedications for our grandchildren when they come along. And the cycle begins anew.

Along the way, we cross over a subtle, but definitive line of departure. Sometimes we notice it. Sometimes we don’t. But among the benchmark events we attend, the number of funerals starts to intrude on the otherwise joyous celebrations of life. And so another Rubicon of life has been crossed. It starts out with an occasional heart-rending ordeal. Someone dies young and tragically, way before their time. Then, we begin to notice with increasing frequency how such events intrude on our otherwise genteel lives. We bid adieu to the older generation. This is a sad time, but it is also part of the natural order of things. As the years go by, we notice that the departed are no longer part of our parent’s generation. They’re closer to the our own age. Ultimately, we begin to part company with our contemporaries – family, friends, and associates. Somewhere, along the way, we make peace with our own mortality as we wind our way through the weary round of life.

Or we don’t.

Nowadays, I go to a lot of funerals. And so the seasons of life are marked. There’s a reason this time of life is called the golden years. Gold is the color of autumn, and autumn, for all its crisp splendor, is also the season of death.

I went to one such funeral on Saturday. It was a dreary day, dominated by a high gray sky, chilly temperatures, and a light drizzle. We don’t take well to such conditions here in California. Let’s face it, this is the land of sunshine, blue skies, streets paved with gold, and perpetual second chances. It’s been said that if the devil was run out of hell, he could get a second chance at establishing a demonic kingdom in California. Some say he already has.

So when the day turns out as it did on Saturday, it affects everybody’s mood, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. There was no definition to the day. It wasn’t exactly cloudy, it wasn’t exactly wet. And since snow and ice have been outlawed by statute when Jerry Brown was governor, we know nothing about such things, and wouldn’t know how to deal them if we did. So we won’t even go there. No, it was none of those things. It was . . . well . . . gray – depressing, indistinct, undefined; a day in which people could not get any traction about who they were, or what they were about.

I hardly knew the man. His name was Loyal Nixon, and we met briefly at a Men’s breakfast at church about a year ago. He was the stepfather of one of the members of said ministry, and we immediately hit it off. Our conversation was brief – less than half an hour before the morning speaker ascended the podium. But in that time, we forged a bond. It was the beginning of a deeper appreciation I came to have for the man, even though that brief snippet of conversation was the only one we were to share together.

You see, Loyal Nixon and I shared a heritage. And that heritage was both rich and noble, fraught with meaning, and brimful with significance. Loyal Nixon and I were both Screaming Eagles. Unbeknownst to either of us, we served in Vietnam at the same time, in the same place, and participated in some of the same engagements. It was entirely conceivable that I could have had his back at the same time he had mine.

The bond was both mythical and legendary. I won’t try to explain the appeal such lofty standards hold for those who aspire to them. Simply put, the main motivation for those of us who pursue the road to the airborne is the desire to set ourselves apart, to be the best. For those of us who pass muster, wearing the talismanic emblem of the 101st Airborne Division can forge a genuine brotherhood if we so choose to embrace it as such. However, Loyal’s participation in that elite unit revealed but a small part of the totality of the man. What follows is a brief excerpt from the funeral bulletin on Saturday:

    “Loyal was a retired Army officer and served 28 years on active duty in Korea, Germany, the Middle East, area of occupation in Lebanon, Panama, three tours in Vietnam and served a tour of duty with the Diplomatic Corps in Liberia, West Africa.

    “Loyal began his military career at 18 as a paratrooper and throughout his career has jumped from aircraft and helicopters in all areas of the free world. Loyal was a highly decorated combat veteran, holder of six bronze stars and numerous medals for bravery in action.”
Simply put, Loyal Nixon was the real deal. One meeting, one conversation, one look into his eyes told me that. There was an apocryphal anecdote going around Fort Benning when I was in jump school. It may have been true; more likely it was an urban legend. But it made the point it was intended to make all the same. It involved a exchange between a young airborne recruit, and his jumpmaster just before he boarded the aircraft that was to take him up for his first qualifying combat jump:

[Jumpmaster]: Son, why did you volunteer for the airborne?

[Recruit]: Sir, I like being around guys who like to jump.

Loyal Nixon had that effect on people. He was a man of character, integrity, and commitment. We used to describe such a man years ago as having steel in his spine. Those of us who are not blessed with such depth of character often like to rub up next to those who are. We like to think some of it will rub off. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that what we’re really drawn to is leadership qualities we do not possess.

Loyal Nixon was an African American. He grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina during the Depression. He enlisted in a segregated army and lived to see it integrated. He served through the better part of his adult life, and retired as a senior warrant officer. Undoubtedly, he endured his share scorn and ridicule from certain officers, noncoms and enlisted men who were not particularly thrilled to see a competent black man of skill, courage and integrity rise through the ranks. He lived to see the end of Jim Crowe in the South, and experienced the turbulent times and incendiary rhetoric of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

And through it all, Loyal Nixon never forgot who he was. Because he was a Christian, a loving husband and father and a genuine American patriot. In precisely that order.

Loyal Nixon was head of a bi-racial, blended family. And that is always a challenge, regardless of the specifics. But that challenge was made even greater because although we live in a nation of tolerance, we ourselves are often intolerant. We’re part of a culture of inclusion, but many of us are casually exclusionary. We may be saved by grace, but we are still firmly ensconced in a body of sin.

Loyal Nixon endured all this, and more. If he encountered injustice, he practiced fairness. If he endured prejudice, he fought it with love. If he experienced the selfish ambition of his contemporaries, he carried himself with a spirit of sacrificial service. He lived the dream and made it real. He embraced the best of what America was and made it his own. And he did so by knowing who he was, and living his faith.

    “He has shown you, O man, what is good;
    And what does the Lord require of you
    But to do justly,
    To love mercy,
    And walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
Loyal Nixon was definitely of the old school. He served his community, loved his family, and cherished his country, warts and all.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Upland, CA was filled to bursting on Saturday. The ministry leadership indicated they never had such a turnout. Rarely has a man been so respected. Rarely has he been so deeply beloved, by family and friends alike. He was laid to rest at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Riverside, California on Monday morning.

The 101st Airborne was well represented on that day. We weren’t numerous, but we were present and accounted for. We weren’t personally acquainted with each other, but we knew our own, all the same. That distinctive lapel pin and a subtle but definitive nod was all it took. And when the flag was folded and presented to his widow, qualities like loyalty, honor, service and sacrifice became more than a punch line of the mainstream media. They became what they are and always have been – the bedrock upon which the foundation of America was built and thrived.

Between the memorial service on Saturday and the burial on Monday morning, we spent an altogether typical Sunday for an evangelical church community. The talk was typical for an election year. We’ve already anointed John McCain is God’s next holy prophet of the truth, now that the current one – George W. Bush – is due to retire in short order. And we’ve already branded Obama as the latest Antichrist, now that the traditional one, Hillary Clinton, looks like she won’t make the cut. And then we rested. Because the serious business of lining our pockets with gold, throwing our friends and neighbors on the grenade in the process, and selling out our country for thirty pieces of silver is a full-time job, and was going to start up early on Monday morning. So a day of rest is essential if we’re gonna get the goods while the gettin’ is good, as they say.

And in the midst of this, Loyal Nixon went home. He didn’t go easily. The staff of the VA hospital at Loma Linda never saw a man fight so hard to live. Airborne all the way, right up to the very end. But when God calls us home, then home we must go.

So, between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning, we celebrated a life, endured the pain of loss, and marked the tragedy of his departure.

We celebrated a life well-lived, and a legacy that will endure through the years. We endured the pain of loss, because the empty space he left in the lives of those who loved him seems cavernous. And we mark the tragedy, because Loyal Nixon, who served so faithfully, loved so fully, and cherished his country for what it was and what it is, departed this life for brighter shores. He will not be replaced.

There is no younger generation, waiting in the wings, with the courage of their convictions. There are no young people, who will live a life of sacrificial service for something worth defending. There is no one with the courage, conviction, and commitment to soldier on in a world where the distinctiveness of a nation that values freedom, cherishes human dignity and treasures the God-given rights of its individual citizens is eroding before our very eyes. Freedom isn’t free, as we all well know. And the price of freedom is dear. Someone has to stand a watch in its defense. And the sentry post will soon be empty.

But every now and then, we meet someone of singular substance. We gaze into their eyes, and see ourselves reflected in their soul. And if we’re truly fortunate, we take time to pause for some much needed self-reflection.

Once in a while we meet someone who reminds us of who we were, who we have become, and how we got there. And maybe, just maybe, we might rearrange a priority or two that could stand rearranging.

Occasionally, we meet someone who walks the walk, pays the price, and at the end of the day – or at the end of their lives – has something of substance to show for it.

Every now and then.

    “His lord said to him,
    ‘Well done, good and faithful servant;
    you were faithful over a few things,
    I will make you ruler over many things.
    Enter into the joy of your lord’” – Matthew 25:21
Loyal Nixon – 1933 – 2008. Rest easy, my friend. I wish we had more time together.

by Euro-American Scum
(contributing Team Member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)

29 comments:

lori_gmeiner said...

Words can't express the way I feel after reading this. Let me just say "thank you" for posting it, and God bless the Loyal Nixons of the world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

3timesalady said...

You aren't just a student of history, you're a keen observer of human nature. I always enjoy your articles here. Thank you for posting this very moving tribute to a very great man. Too many "heroes" whose names are on everybody's lips can't hold a candle to to Loyal Nixon.

3timesalady said...

P.S. I'm sorry to hear that you have fallen on hard times. I will be praying for you, that you get back on your feet again and can find work in whatever area you are skilled in. You could certainly have a writing career!

d_o'connor said...

Once in a while we meet someone who reminds us of who we were, who we have become, and how we got there. And maybe, just maybe, we might rearrange a priority or two that could stand rearranging.

This doesn't just apply to single people but to whole societies. America is in need of such "priority rearrangement" right now and right quick.

Thank you for this excellent commentary and God bless Mr. Nixon. I would like to have known him.

paul Nicholas said...

Although Nixon didn't fight in WWII he exemplified the qualities that made those men "the greatest generation." As you said, we're not replacing such men the way we used to and we're going to pay a dear price for that.

Anonymous said...

Your Loyal Nixon was a better man than any of the current contenders for President.

John Cooper said...

{There is no younger generation, waiting in the wings, with the courage of their convictions.}

I'm sorry, Mr. Scum, that was a great piece, but I don't think that one part was quite accurate. The young troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have kept the faith and served with honor - it's the (so-called) "intellectuals" in the media who are attempting to deprive them of their well-deserved respect.

The talking heads and party hacks will fail in their attempt to deprive them of that. Spend some time in Ontario airport and watch the people stand up and yell "THANKS!" when uniformed soldiers walk by.

Now, I agree that our (so-called, again) leaders have failed miserably in reinforcing the philosophical foundation upon which America was founded, but as long as a few of us keep the faith in that area, hope is not lost.

(We can only hope that E-A-S doesn't have access to a television as well as a computer.)

fascismisyourwosrtenemy said...

Cooper, I agree with your clarification about American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are true patriots willing to take on whatever the enemy dishes out, in the name of freedom.

But unfortunately they are not the norm where today's young people are concerned. America's youth in general could care less about our country's roots or its future. I think that was what EAS was referring to and in that he was right.

SharonGold said...

The beginning of your column is a beautiful description of what we experience as we age and the ending is a heartfelt tribute to a great American. I appreciate your writing very much and I appreciate the sacrifice of Loyal Nixon. He is a true American hero.

kathymlynczak said...

Such short and simple moments in our lives- like this funeral- have such a profound effect. When we write about them to others it affects them profoundly too. Thank you for touching us this way.

And I wish you the best, EuroAmerican. May you be lifted up as you try to get back on your feet. It is obvious that you know God loves you.

Max Shapiro said...

R.I.P. Loyal Nixon.

Thank you Euro-American Scum.

johnsteever said...

What a tremendously respectful tribute to a man well deserving of it.

Anonymous said...

May he be rewarded in heaven and may God bless him and his family.

cheryl gereau said...

Thanks for posting this. From the sounds of your history, you probably have lots of stories from your own experiences and those told to you by World War II heroes. God bless you in all you do and please write more.

Anonymous said...

Here's a WSJ article I know you'd agree with:

http://opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110010686

This is a beautifully written story about a modern American hero. I know his family misses him a lot but their pride in who he was must be indescribable.

Proudpodunknative said...

Loyal was a retired Army officer and served 28 years on active duty in Korea, Germany, the Middle East, area of occupation in Lebanon, Panama, three tours in Vietnam and served a tour of duty with the Diplomatic Corps in Liberia, West Africa.

Loyal began his military career at 18 as a paratrooper and throughout his career has jumped from aircraft and helicopters in all areas of the free world. Loyal was a highly decorated combat veteran, holder of six bronze stars and numerous medals for bravery in action.


None of us has ever heard of him. But we all know the names Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. Does anyone wonder why America is dying?

Anonymous said...

I understand what you mean about the younger generation in your comparison. There are pockets of patriotic young people today (many of them fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan) but that kind of thinking isn't the norm nowadays.

Not to take away from his heroism, but when your Loyal Nixon was a young man, it wasn't anywhere near as unusual to run across men of his caliber and it was even less unusual a generation before him. Each generation loses a little more of "the right stuff."

Thank you for writing this tribute to your friend. It was the right thing to do and you did it well.

Liz said...

His family's loss is heaven's gain.

calbrindisi said...

You really have a way of pulling your readers into your story. I'm surprised you can't find work as a writer. Sorry to hear you're having a hard time of it and hope circumstances improve for you soon.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written!

Anonymous said...

Through the past and through the ages

His blood has spilled across the pages

His mind a burning, feverish fire

Set aflame with one desire

One vital need, like drawing breath

One gift is all that he has left

On caves, on walls, on printed page

His tales survive beyond the grave

His stories told throughout the years

Inciting anger, laughter and tears

Behind the scenes of every story

He basks in all his unseen glory

Unheard, ignored, even denied

It matters not, for he has tried

To cast his voice upon the wind

To die and be reborn again

To kill, to heal, to try your mind

To challenge one page at a time

To pour his heart upon the pages

An unsung hero through the ages

--- Lewis Knight

smithy said...

I think the character of today's young people is somewhere between your two estimates, Scum and John Cooper.

The whole country doesn't have the backbone that our grandparents did, but the media does a good job of not reporting the good ones in the younger generation, especially the ones who are fighting in the Middle East.

Thanks for the great essay, Scum and I hope you'll soon be back on your feet so you can write more soon.

LouBarakos said...

Definition of "hero":

1 a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability b: an illustrious warrior c: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities d: one that shows great courage

Notice nowhere are the words "sports figure" or "rock star."

Loyal Nixon fits.

Anonymous said...

And when the flag was folded and presented to his widow, qualities like loyalty, honor, service and sacrifice became more than a punch line of the mainstream media. They became what they are and always have been – the bedrock upon which the foundation of America was built and thrived.

Past tense.

GraceSmolze said...

Your writing is the kind that really holds the attention of the reader. It plays on feelings and concepts that every person has and moves on from there. Thank you very much for this very moving story and I hope your circumstances improve.

David Olson said...

In addition to being a real hero who triumphed over hardship, it sounds like Mr. Nixon lived a full life. It was inspiring to read his story.

Anonymous said...

This guy epitomized "true grit." There's not enough grit to go around these days.

Anonymous said...

Excellent writing here.