“DON’T LET THE HOME FRONT DOWN”
by OPOVV, ©2017
The curtain rises to the song of “Ave Maria” (5:20) that plays as background music. The stage is set as a National Veterans’ Cemetery; the lighting is subdued. The backdrop is a never-ending view of tombstones up and down the hills to the horizon. The sky is clear and blue. Stage left rear a burial ceremony is taking place; the Honor Guard stands at attention; and the Army Chaplain is mouthing the eulogy. Stage front right are a couple of sailors in oil-soaked dungarees leaning against the trunk of a large oak tree; an aviator, holding a dirty, crumbled parachute, is pacing; and a couple of GI’s in sweat-stained battle fatigues are lounging on a bench. All have blood-stained bandages.
“Another one bites the dust.”
“We see. There are thousands of them here and in other places such as this all around the world. Imagine being buried on some far-off Pacific island that your loved ones will never visit. That one over there is one of the lucky few.”
“I’d say because he was gone before he knew what happened to him. One minute he was riding in an APC and the next parts of him were being zippered-in a body bag.”
“I wished I would’ve gone that way. I fell a couple of thousand feet before I hit. In a way, I guess, maybe I was lucky after all because, if they hadn’t shot my chute full of holes, they might’ve beheaded me on film. Couldn’t bear thinking of my wife or parents ever seeing that.”
“So you’re never going to be here, or any place like it, are you?”
“No, not for real. Oh, they’ll have a ceremony like for that guy over there, but the coffin will be empty.”
“I think they place your uniform or something inside. Maybe a copy of your service records.”
“I don’t know. I had time to think about all of my mishaps and really felt bad about not being able to apologize for them. But I got this idea from, well, I don’t have a clue, but what I did was to leave a card behind saying that if I should die I’m sorry for, well, I guess just about everything.”
“That was actually pretty smart. The DOD should issue ‘Death Cards.’”
“I think they call it a ‘Will: being of sound mind and body’ sort of thing.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess you’re right.”
There’s a little commotion at the burial site as the Honor Guard prepares to fire a volley as our actors stand at attention, saluting the fallen soldier. The background music, “Ave Maria,” ends as the first volley is fired. After the first shots the sailors say, “Duty”; after the second volley one of the GIs says, “Honor”; and after the last the aviator says, “Country.” The curtain lowers.
The curtain rises on the stage set with 20 blank 4’ white tombstones arranged is precise rows. The backdrop is a black curtain; subdued lighting. The actors are wandering around aimlessly dressed as in Act I but not quite as neatly: the bandages are coming unwound, dangling on the ground.
“Was it worth it?”
“The question presupposes that there’s an answer other than duty, honor and country. Of course it was worth it. We’re not only the history of our country, but also the ultimate testimonies of the Spartacuses of the past: part of the ‘Army of the Eternal Vigilant.’ We fought and died for our Constitution and what it stands for; we upheld the honor of our Oath.”
“There are those who don’t give us homage, don’t stand for the flag and don’t salute with fingers at the brow while in uniform or hand over heart when not in uniform.”
“A clear and concise demonstration of a failed education, of that we can most certainly agree upon.”
“So we didn’t have a choice?”
“Not really. We fight the fight so others may continue to fight the fight. War isn’t pretty and it wasn’t meant to be: you go after the enemy and when the ammo runs out you use your knife or your teeth. You do whatever you have to do to win. The world is a dangerous place and it doesn’t get any worse than when grown men on both sides are trying their best to kill each another. The only rule is that there is absolutely no rule.
“There was a movie a while ago about some soldiers who ran across a young goat-herder and they let him go. In real life, in my life, the goat-herder is killed. And it has nothing to do with Right vs. Might: if you’re the squad leader you bring your men home, and not in body bags. You just do your job and then get on with life. It’s the way of the warrior and it’s been that way for the past 5,000 years.
“Maybe we’ll reach the stars someday.”
“I do believe that’s the basic plan; that and, of course, believe in the ‘Golden Rule.’”
“So that puts us in pretty good company?”
The actors wander off the stage while singing, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”; the already-dim stage lights go to ‘off’; the curtain lowers as the song ends.
The curtain rises on an empty stage. The backdrop is a deep purple. The stage is bare and the lighting subdued. The actors wander in from both right and left, dressed in their Class ‘A’ uniforms with all their medals and ribbons; shaved; haircuts to military standards; spit-shined shoes; no bandages, bruises or dried blood. They come to center stage and address the audience while an endless parade, stage rear, of military personnel from the time of the Revolutionary War to present day pass from stage right to left, wearing the uniforms in which they died and in the same condition, thereby emphasizing the contrast between our soon-to-be buried actors and the casualties of the past.
“I guess all I can say is don’t let our lives be wasted.”
“I think he means to keep the faith.”
“The Constitution. And if it walks and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
“And we shoot ducks.”
“All day long.”
“Don’t forget the Golden Rule.”
“Keep our Republic intact. None of this Socialism nonsense; you all hear us loud and clear?”
“We’ve one more act to complete before our play is over. On the back of your playbook are the words to the song that we’re about to sing for you. If you wish to sing along, feel free. At the end of the song the curtain will lower and our play will be over. All that we can hope for is that our lives will not have been sacrificed in vain. We’re doing our job by fighting the enemy overseas, but you have to do yours, too: don’t let the HOME FRONT down. Thank you.”
“Reflections of My Life” (4:18)
[*”What’s your point?”: True story.]