Memorial Day should be a solemn and somber holiday as we’re honoring those who served in the military during wartime, especially those who paid the ultimate price. The nature of this holiday is often honored in breach by those who crowd the beaches and parks. In ordinary times, that’s merely annoying. These are not ordinary times; in 2020, it’s infuriating.
Memorial Day 2020 is beyond somber, it’s downright grim. We’re approaching a macabre milestone: the 100,000 death from the novel coronavirus, which was memorably noted in Sunday’s New York Times. Two stories captured my attention this morning as I scanned the digital edition of the Gray Lady. The first is about how our monstrously mendacious president* went golfing this weekend as the country suffers from his misrule. He has yet to express sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic; not even on his beloved Twitter. Mourner-in-Chief has long been part of the job description but he’s incapable of even paying lip service to the dead. In a word: monstrous. That’s why I call him President* Pennywise.
The second story is about the pandemic’s toll on Holyoke Home for Soldiers in Massachusetts.
Of the 210 veterans who were living in the facility in late March, 89 are now dead, 74 having tested positive for the virus. Almost three-quarters of the veterans inside were infected. It is one of the highest death tolls of any end-of-life facility in the country.
This is a gut punch of a story, reminding us of how hollow the nation’s commitment to our veterans often is. Meanwhile President* Pennywise golfs and tweets; oblivious to the grim milestone noted by the NYT. He is incapable of even feigning empathy with the survivors of those who have died due to his grotesque incompetence. It didn’t have to be this bad and the buck stops in the Oval Office. In a word: infuriating.
We return to our regularly scheduled annual programming, but I would have been remiss in not mentioning our current national tragedy on this most solemn of holidays:
There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post is making its eleventh annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.
I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:
The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.
My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape.
Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…
Eddie died 5 years ago  and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman, so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone and confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”
Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.
I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.