"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day

I hope everyone is enjoying the long holiday weekend. While you're having a good time cooking BBQ, visiting the lake or park, or just spending an extra day to relax with your family, please take just a moment to remember why it's called "Memorial Day" -- a day to honor and thank those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Although Memorial Day honors the casualties of all previous conflicts, these days the focus is on Iraq. Whether or not you support the politics behind our military presence there, the soldiers who are doing the dirty work, taking the risks, and most significantly -- losing their lives, deserve our respect.

In this spirit of reflection and appreciation, I'd like to offer the following essay entitled "Night Watch", written by Roy Popkin. Although not specifically about veterans of combat, it's a moving story that I dedicate to servicemen worldwide who, as they do every weekend including this one, are simply doing their jobs as best as they can with the tools they have been given. I may not agree with the reasons why, but I salute you nevertheless. God bless you; may you come home safe, and soon.


A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. "Your son is here," she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement. The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed.

All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength.

Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night. Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her. "Who was that man?" he asked.

The nurse was startled, "Why, he was your father!" she answered.

"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life."

"Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?" "I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me. I stayed."

The next time someone needs you...be there. Stay. You'll be glad you did.


  • At 5/12/2008 04:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    JUst happened to google Roy Popkin (he's my dad) and came across your post from 2 years ago. I wondered how you came across his essay "Night Watch", and wanted you to know that he's definitely still around at 87 and would probably enjoy hearing from people who are familiar with this essay. He still tells the story; he worked with the Red Cross blood program in Brooklyn, N.Y. during the 40's. his e-mail is rmpopkin@verizon.net
    Thanks for posting his essay for Memorial Day in 2006


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