The garden is trying to kill me. It hasn’t been successful yet but I must admit I’ve considered suck starting a 9mm. My son asked to borrow my knife late Monday afternoon during our gardening, I refused to give it to him til he promised he would only make one cut upon his wrist before he passed the knife back to me, ostensibly to make the same cut. A garden suicide pact. I was all in. I despise gardens, years and acres of gardening have instilled that into me and that happened before I ran from the farm. None-the-less I assisted in the planting of 41 tomato plants, 80 jalepeno peppers (Dad thought they were two to a box but they were four) if you’d like some homegrown jalapenos let me know I can probably ship 50 lbs or so to you overnight for a minimal charge. We got everything in at the last minute, much like the 82nd Airplane Gang, the last minute was the only one we had left. 10 inches of snow on the First of May, a week of warm false spring then 5 inches of rain spread over ten days. Now begins the endless weeding. Weeds grow even under harsh forbidding conditions. Food bearing plants only grow if you pamper them, they need constant water, can’t bear to share a little bit of dirt with any other kind of plant… It’s pitiful, alot like today’s college students. We need to GMO some garden plants with big f’ing balls, I want a tomato plant that will tell a weed to “back off, bitch!” The need to raise college students with testosterone is equally apparent. I know I’m late for D-Day, it’s The Army Birthday tomorrow, also known as Flag Day, I’m blaming it on the garden and drivin’ on.
I’m going to skip one song and give you some other music for your ears… Ronaldus Magnus paying respects to “The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that is what an Orator looks and sounds like. Notes on a 3×5 card, not karaoke off a teleprompter. That is a man who loves his country and the people who made his country into what it was. We’re not what we were any longer, just so you know where I stand.
My Great-uncle Hank, Henry Bouman, didn’t climb the cliffs of Pointe-du-hoc, he helped retake the Philippines as part of the 6th Infantry Division. I can remember when I was five, Uncle Hank kept feeder cattle on the farm we lived on. He’d stop every day beside the house and wait for me to come out so I could help him feed them. I could wrestle one half filled bucket of corn down the feed trough while he carried two heaping buckets. Uncle Hank really took a shine to me when I joined the Army, we stayed in touch. Every time I came home to visit I stopped by to see him and his wife. The last few years they lived in the old folks home in Tyler. Every Memorial Day Uncle Hank would get dressed up and go to the cemetery in Holland, MN the last few years he delivered the opening statements. All dressed up included his bar of ribbons, a Silver Star, Bronze Stars, Purple Heart, more that aren’t worth mentioning. There was one that was always above the others, a silver flintlock rifle on a field of infantry blue surrounded by a silver wreath of oak leaves. A Combat Infantryman’s Badge. An Infantry Soldier must be fired upon by an enemy force and return fire in a respectable manner in order to earn one. I have one of my own. My medals aren’t as impressive as Uncle Hank’s but the only one I give a rat’s ass about is my CIB.
We were talking one day in the old folks home and I mentioned that. Of all the things I’d done and all the accolades I’d earned the only one I truly prized was my silver flintlock on its field of blue. Uncle Hank met and held my eyes, then he began to speak.
The farm kids were the ones the NCOs looked for, they knew what hard work was all about, they got stuck with all the hard, shitty missions. One day in the midst of hell in the jungles of the Philippines, Uncle hank was asked to volunteer to take tanks of flamethrower fuel forward to the flamethrower crews. Being the good farm kid he was he agreed. He wound up part of the flamethrower squad. The things he described made tears well up in my eyes and my heart hammer with shitty memories. The Japanese soldiers would not surrender, they would charge out of wherever they were and do their best to take someone with them, he said the only thing you could do was put the fire on them and keep it on them til they stopped running. Holy shit, what would that do to your soul? One day during the battles around Leyte he was with a fire team bringing a resupply of fuel to the flamethrowers. A lone Japanese soldier fired a mortar at them, a piece of shrapnel took most of the muscle off his calf. The boys needed their fuel, Uncle Hank wrapped some bandages around his calf and did as they still say in the Army, “Suck it up and Drive on.” He carried a five gallon can of explosive gelled gasoline on his back up the mountain bleeding like a stuck hog the entire time. After they delivered the fuel his buddies wanted to carry him back down the mountain. Uncle Hank wouldn’t let them, doing so would have slowed them down and made them a target for the enemy. He walked back down.
Near death by the time they got to the bottom he was evac’d to a field hospital where he spent several months. One day an orderly came and told him the war was over, the jap’s had surrendered. He was told to find his way back to his unit. Nobody came to pick him up, he found his own way, hitchhiking basically. When he got to his unit the Company clerk said “hey, I’ve got an award for you…” The clerk dug through the drawers of his field desk and pulled out the Orders and the silver rifle on its field of infantry blue, handed it to Uncle Hank and said “You’re the first guy I know who’s lived to get one of these, all the rest have been dead.” Uncle Hank hitchhiked to the port, found his First Sergeant and sailed home.
It wasn’t til the 90’s that his family contacted the Minnesota Secretary of State and tracked down the orders for his other awards, the silver star, purple heart and other associated bullshit. Uncle Hank didn’t really care, he knew what he’d done and he had his CIB. He was proud as hell when the Secretary of State and other assorted “important people” came to Holland Minnesota’s Fourth of July festivities to properly present them to him. No Soldier goes out of his way to get into a ceremony but if one chases you down you may as well go with the flow. You should also note that Holland Minnesota has a population in the neighborhood of 70, give or take. Look up “fly-over country” in the dictionary, the picture is Holland.
The fighting in the Philippines, hell, all of the pacific theater, was sheer hell. Uncle Hank didn’t sleep with his wife for three years after he got back. He tried and she touched him in the middle of the night, just to feel her husband close to her, he woke up with his hands around her throat. That’s why I don’t snivel about PTSD, like I said, suck it up and drive on.
Lavonne, Uncle Hanks wife, passed on the year before last. Uncle Hank didn’t live out the next year. Isn’t that a heart rending ending to my tale? Kinda like Johnny and June. I’d give my left nut for that.
I miss my Uncle Hank, he was a true American Hero, been there, done that, got the t-shirt and lived a life. I had a couple political paragraphs planned but I just don’t have ’em in me anymore, it would detract from the piece of my soul I shared with you and detract from Uncle Hank. I’ll see him again in Valhalla. Cavalrymen dream of Fiddler’s Green but real Soldiers (Infantrymen) go to Valhalla where it’s always “double drill and no canteen.”
Memorial Day is better if you can find a happy memory. I hope you made some happy memories this Memorial Day.