A friend of mine just sent this to me. It’s by Joe Galloway - Co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once... And Young"
FRIDAY MORNING AT THE PENTAGON
By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY
Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines, sailors and Air Force
personnel have given their lives in the terrible duty that is war.
Thousands more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded and facing
months or years in military hospitals..
This week, I'm turning my space over to a good friend and former
roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who recently completed a
yearlong tour of duty in Iraq and is now back at the Pentagon.
Here's Lt. Col. Bateman's account of a little-known ceremony that fills
the halls of the Army corridor of the Pentagon with cheers, applause and
many tears every Friday morning. It first appeared on May 17 on the
Weblog of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman at the Media Matters
for America Website.
"It is 110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring of the Pentagon. This
section of the Pentagon is newly renovated; the floors shine, the
hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant the
entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants
and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the
walls. There are thousands here.
This hallway, more than any other, is the 'Army' hallway. The G3
offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 is around the corner. All Army.
Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may not have
seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross
the way and renew.
Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center. The air
conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies in this
area. The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares.
10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outer most
of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to
the building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is applause
with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the
length of the hallway.
A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier
in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence. He is
the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his
wounds are still suppurating. By his age I expect that he is a private,
or perhaps a private first class.
Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod
as they applaud, soldier to soldier.
Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the
hallways were somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps
in private guilt for not having shared in the burden. Yet.
Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the
wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I
think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier's
chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel. Behind him, and
stretc hing the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each
private, corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade
11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady applause. My hands hurt, and
I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head. My hands
hurt. Please! Shut up and clap. For twenty-four minutes, soldier after
soldier has come down this hallway - 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come
with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30
They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for
a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the
generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon getting out of
their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down
this hallway, through this most unique audience. Some are catching
handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade.
More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.
There are families with them as well: the 18-year-old war-bride pushing
her 19-year-old husband's wheelchair and not quite understanding why her
husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew up with, now a man, who
had never shed a tear is crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who
have, perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for
the emotion given on their son's behalf. No man in that hallway,
walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few
cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple
of the officers in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade
in the past.
These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our
brothers, and we welcome them home. This parade has gone on, every
single Friday, all year long, for more than four years.
Did you know that? The media hasn't yet told the story. And probably