commentary (2005-44)

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They Also Serve

Fallen veterans’ families’ and friends’ memories to be honored

They Also Serve

by Barry Henderson

Veterans Day, upcoming Nov. 11, is a day set aside to salute survivors of military service, in the way that Memorial Day is to commemorate those who died serving our country. It is no less important to honor those who put themselves at mortal risk than it is to lend the ultimate in respect to those who made the supreme sacrifice in the name of duty to our nation.

There is no named day of the year on which we bow to those who lost friends or family in the line of duty, but there is a fitting gesture in the offing at WUOT, Knoxville’s National Public Radio affiliate.

News Director Matt Shafer Powell has interviewed East Tennessee family members and friends touched deeply by the deaths of seven soldiers killed in battles from World War II through the Korean and Vietnam Wars to the current conflict in Iraq. Those “intimate sound portraits” Powell assembled are to be broadcast Nov. 7-11 in the 5-9 a.m. Morning Edition and 4-6:30 p.m. All Things Considered timeslots as the WUOT news paean to Veterans Day.

Briefly, Powell’s subjects include interviews with:

• WWII vet Ernest Gardner of Friendsville, whose friend Pvt. Maxwell Green, was shot and killed in Luxembourg in the aftermath of the bloody and decisive Battle of the Bulge.

• Diana Pynnonen of Kingston, whose brother, Corp. Michael Pynnonen, died from malaria contracted while serving in Vietnam.

• Doug Harrison of Powell, whose son, Spec. Daniel Harrison, was killed in December 2004 near Mosul, Iraq.

• Jerry Partin of Cleveland, Tenn., whose brother, Sgt. Willie Partin, was killed in 1951 while fighting in Korea.

• Jeffrey Baldwin of Knoxville, a Vietnam vet whose friend and fellow soldier, Spec. Raymonde Renz, was killed when he stepped on a mine in the Mekong Delta in the summer of 1967.

•Andre and Karen Lieurance of Seymour, whose son, Staff Sgt. Victoir Lieurance, was killed in August of this year when an improvised bomb exploded near his HUMVEE while on patrol in Iraq.

• Don MacKerer of Knoxville, whose twin brother, Arnold William “Bill” MacKerer, was mortally wounded in WWII while both were serving the war effort.

Powell, who is 40 this year and is not a veteran himself, says, “I was moved as I’ve never been moved by their stories. It’s pretty powerful stuff.”

He says the survivors’ accounts “amazed me at how open and honest they were. I didn’t expect that. I guess they are searching for catharsis.” But he says the depth of pain he saw and felt in their stories may mean that catharsis never really comes. Acceptance eventually, but not full catharsis.

Powell studied wars in school, he says, and was “maybe intrigued by the idea of service. No armed conflict of any duration occurred while he was between the ages of 18 and mid-20s, he says, but while he was in college, the United States invaded the Caribbean island of Grenada and he was ready in an instant to quit school and enlist. But the little “war” was over in a few days, and he went back to his studies before he could sign up.

It was on a visit to Washington, D.C. when he first saw the Vietnam Memorial, that long, low black wall engraved with the names of servicemen and -women who died in that protracted war, the only armed conflict that the United States patently lost.

“I was reading the names of people I didn’t know, and I found myself wondering, was this guy married? Did he have kids? What did that guy want to be if he made it through the war?”

It was a stirring experience, and it led Powell to search out some of the people whose kinfolks, loved ones, or best friends perished in wars the United States has fought.

His sharing of their memories over WUOT this coming week will point up the enduring tragedy of wars, whether they are righteous and justifiable or remain questionable.

“They touch every generation in some way,” Powell says. And his programs, geared for the Veterans Day observance, bear that out.

She Served Us All, Too

Another veteran in her own way, a soldier in the still-unresolved conflict between and among races in this country, was Rosa Parks, the African-American hero of the civil-rights movement who died last week.

Her passing, and the marvelous spectacle of the thousands of Americans of all races who filed past her coffin in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, was especially significant to anyone who was around to witness the coverage of her signature “statement” in 1955 Montgomery, Ala., where she declined to give up her bus seat to a white man and ignited the movement that’s ongoing today.

That Rosa Parks was the first woman whose casket was so honored in the Capitol may be a shame. But no American woman may have deserved that tribute more than she. Rest her soul.

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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