Thursday, November 11, 2010

Life On The FOB: Part V - The Memorials

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States.  In honor of those who have given so much I wanted to look at how they are remembered here.  But first a thought about war memorials.

A few years ago, my sister was married in a church in the famous Italian neighborhood in St. Louis called The Hill.  This church had been built amongst the square grid of streets in a crowded neighborhood that was populated during the great wave of immigration a century ago in America.  It was ethnic community in every sense and this church was part of its fabric.  But with time and the march to the suburbs, that ethnic identity had gradually waned.

Before the ceremony I was wandering the back of the church where I stumbled on a seemingly forgotten photo album.  The album contained pictures of the young men from that neighborhood who had been killed in America's wars.  The majority of the pictures were of World War II veterans but also some were from Korea and Vietnam.  There were no pictures from the current conflicts.  As I flipped through the pages, I wondered about the young men, the lives they lived and those they didn't live, and how much their legacy depended on that neglected photo album.

And so it is on the FOB.  The tragedy of the life lost too young is immense.  Yet, even here, where that tragedy is experienced most immediately, the memorials tend to recede from constant thought amidst the inevitability of daily routine.  Furthermore, the war in Afghanistan is now America's longest war and one of the small consequences is that the memories of these men are receding even here.  Some of them were killed three, four, five, even six years ago which is an eternity in the tempo of unit deployment.  Therefore I  wanted to display the ways they are remembered even if their personal histories are vague to us.

Structures are named for them,

The FOB Gym

SPC Scott Andrews

the Romanians have erected memorials,

Cross at the Romanian Chapel

Memorial Garden nestled between tents

barriers and walls are painted,

Jersey Barrier

and the dining facility has reserved them a place.

The Empty Chair

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