Thursday, November 11, 2010
Immediately, I remembered old movies and toss off lines in conversation about being sent to serve in the Merchant Marines. And realized I knew precious little about these mariners, other than some mangled impression that being sent to serve was akin to being in the Foreign Legion, but with water, rather than sand, under your feet.
Here are a few corrections to my imperceptions:
*Rather than foreigners choosing to serve in another country's armed forces (the Foreign Legion), the Merchant Marine is composed of citizens of their country.
*The Foreign Legion has an elite reputation, and is not Abbot and Costello bumbling through the desert
*The Merchant Marine is not composed of U.S. Marines on punitive duty, but seafaring folk who come to the aid of their country...without the artillery of a fighting ship.
Every year, when Veteran's Day comes around...the day formerly known as Armistice Day, in honor of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, when there was a "cessation in hostilities"...every year on this day, I dig around, and every year on this day, I learn something new about this history of those who have served.
Of course, just about every day of every year, I find myself reminded of that which I don't know.
Today I take that reminder in more somber form. Because something I will never know, no matter how much I recognize what I don't know, is what it is like to give your life in service of country. Or spend your days serving, knowing that you might cross the bar before the day is done.
photo from the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives, an online source of things marine from 1800s-1954, including information and documents from the two World Wars, the WPA...and groups working the inland seas.
manuscript copy of Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar" from the University of South Carolina rare books and special collections section of their Libraries site.