• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
This area does not yet contain any content.
« Seaming | Main | His Holy Halfpipe »

At Arlington

You are lions to little me, and what's more, you never thought of yourselves as such.

You stood in straight lines at attention where my legs buckle with fear, with fatigue, with laziness.

You stayed kept your politics to yourself so that I might speak of reality television and infomercials.

You bent with the weight of heavy gear and heavy responsibility so that I could stand impatiently in amusement park ride lines, cell phone in one hand, cold drink in the other.

Your family followed you without complaint so that I can lay my head down at night without any real concern as to whether or not mine is safe.

You drank dirty, warm water so that I could have my choice of bottled Perrier in the endless aisles of a well-swept grocery store.

You submitted to the orders of others so that I can pick up and lay down work at will.

You stayed up all night, watching, so that I could sleep in and roll my eyes at the cost of a Frappuccino.

You missed the birth of your first child so that I could weep over not having had a vacation in the past year.

You put your entire career on hold so that I could fret over the low pay for freelance writers these days.

You endured desert heat so that I could smack at the thermostat and make a single phone call to fix it.

You live in assigned quarters, tents even, so that I could complain about property taxes.

You hauled crates of humanitarian aid into Jeeps so that I could tap the softness of my arms and complain about the terrible shape I was in--how fat, how underdeveloped.

You drove tanks into sniper fire so that I could look around the quiet streets of my small suburb and say, "There's nothing going on around here."

You put off higher education so that I could gnash my teeth over my alma mater's poor football showing.

You shivered in driving rains so that I could tell everyone from my heated home that I was having trouble adjusting to these terrible Virginia winters after five years in Florida.

You climbed into fighter jets so that I could balk at the poor customer service of the airlines.

You read technical manuals so that I could kill twenty minutes with a gardening magazine.

You deferred credit to others when I said, "Why aren't I famous yet?"

You ate another MRE so I could sigh over microwaved leftovers from a bulging refrigerator.

You said, "Give me a gun," when I said, "But a rerun of Golden Girls is on."

You said, "I'll go," when I said, "I'm too important here."

You said, "Send me," when I said, "I'm afraid to die."

You said, "For others," when I said, "For me."

And I thank you.

very grateful at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (19)

Beautiful! It does my heart good to see someone that really gets it.

May 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlbert Motz

Very inspiring.

May 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

Thanks from an Army wife.....

May 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Beautiful . . .

May 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commentershannj77

I have been a fan for such a long time. You found the words that I could never express. Thank you.

May 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

You might want to re-post that link for "The Gratitude Campaign" or whatever it was called.

As for me, I spent Memorial Day, or at least the very early morning of it, having a chat with "Piranha," my tanker friend I profiled http://marchandchronicles.blogspot.com/2006/05/big-picture.html" rel="nofollow">here and http://marchandchronicles.blogspot.com/2006/07/big-picture-part-ii.html" rel="nofollow">here. He's in town for another couple weeks before shipping off to Korea for at least a year.

While a great deal of adulation is showered upon those troops who are actually in theater, and rightly so, being a full-time soldier is no picnic even when you're stateside. For Piranha, it was the daily grind of being ordered to train new recruits "by the book" when, generally, the first thing you do when you get in country is rip it up and use it in the latrines. Then he'd be off-mission and suffer crushing loneliness. He lost another romantic relationship to the distance he must spend away from it.

This is what he does. At any time, he can stop doing it and take up a nine-to-five job selling insurance or fixing cars. But he doesn't, and he and everyone else who has ever worn the uniform — whether they haven't worn it in years, or they're wearing it right now in a base here, on the front lines, or in the hallowed ground of Arlington — deserves our gratitude on this day and every day that follows.

That brought tears to my eyes. I am going to share it with my principal (her husband is a retired Air Force Fighter Jet Pilot) and a teacher friend whose husband is also retired Air Force.
Could I have your permission to print this? If so, how does a technically -challenged person such as myself make a good copy?
Thanks for reminding us all what Memorial Day is truly all about.

May 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWiserlemmingAZ

Many thanks to all for the incredibly kind comments, especially Jill, to whom I say thank YOU...

Wiserlemming AZ, I am humbled that you would want to share this with a vet and his wife. You have my permission to distribute at will, as long as the source is somewhere on there. The best way to print out a copy is to either cut and paste the text into a Word document, or, if you don't mind the copy being the width of the site, to click on the title of the post. That will isolate it.

May 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

MB, that was exceptionally moving. Thank YOU for writing it.
Our company adopted a platoon, and for the first time in my life, I have a pen pal - a 23 year old kid in Iraq. At 33 and married, it is a struggle to find things to write about to him, but I know that any contact from "us" he really does appreciate.
While I'm anti-war, I could never be anti-soldier.

May 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

It's so cool that you're participation in the platoon adoption. I think the vast majority of the population, including me, is anti-war. Even with all the vets and current servicemembers I know, it's tough to find somebody who truly is "pro-war."

May 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

Hey Mike, since I've no doubt your soldier friend is a very brave man, you might want to advice him to change his nickname, since Piranhas have been shown to be really wimpy fishes by modern ichtiologists ;-)

May 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

Thank you... from the daughter and sister of a veteran

May 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Bell

MB -

Thank you for posting that lovely piece. The entire time I was in the military, I was overlooked as a vet mostly (I choose to believe) because it is difficult to determine if a woman is in the military if she is out of uniform. (Sitting in a group of servicemen as the only women and being the only one not thanked for her service is not the most fun I've ever had. But I defend their right to be that ignorant.) Even though your piece seemingly focuses on the trials men face (not being there for the birth of a child) most of those trials are shared by both sexes, and have been since women have been "allowed" to serve.

It warms my heart to see you write those words, for I have loved ones serving where I left off and hundreds of friends who still serve, and others that have retired or otherwise left the armed forces. So from yet another veteran thank you for caring. Larry and I both served here and abroad and know how hard it is for those who take that road today.

p.s. If you really, really want to have an MRE and haven't had that particularly memorable experience, we still have some here at the house. You are more than welcome to experience the *lovely* food we feed our airmen, sailors and soldiers.

May 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I just wanted to say that this was done very well and makes me really appreciate the men and women fighting for this country.

May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Thank you for writing and sharing this; as an Army wife and American, it is a heartwarming piece of work.

May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrandy Eileen


Thank you. It's a genuine gratitude, and I appreciate that. Beautifully put, as well.

May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLt K

From your Army active duty brother-in-law, thanks for your words. It is good to know some of the American public appreciates their freedom and recognizes the price of that freedom. Don't let anyone ever tell you that freedom is free.

June 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDanTheSoldier

[...] Thank You, Veterans Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2008 by MB You do what I couldn’t possibly. [...]

November 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThank You, Veterans « Bl

[...] May 25, 2009 · No Comments By request, here’s a rerun of “At Arlington,” originally run last Memorial [...]

Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.