Jan 14, 2010

Late Night Miscellany

There's a problem with working an overnight shift. Aside from weird sleep patterns and diet.


Around 3, the phones tend to stop ringing, and the radio stops squawking, and silence settles in. We can amuse ourselves however we want to, really, but we have to be (A) at our desks and (B) awake.

Having internet access helps that tremendously.

After checking email for the forty-seventh time, reloading steepandcheap.com every fifteen minutes, scanning news from half a dozen sources, reading the regular blogs, skimming across a few irregular blogs, drive-by commenting here and there, checking the weather six times (it's still cold and the forecast hasn't changed), drooling on a bit of gun porn, checking my bank balance (and cringing), checking my credit card balance (and crying), doing a bit of retail therapy to make that bad feeling go away...

Well, I haven't run out of internet, but I started poking into some of the more obscure corners of it. A bit of wiki-crawling can take one through some odd memories.

I've been re-reading W.E.B. Griffin's "The Corps" series. It's focused on the US Marine Corps in the years leading up to and during World War II, particularly the Pacific campaigns. To be clear, it is fiction, but it is fairly historically accurate fiction. In any case, I started by looking over Google Maps and trying to find Midway Island and Wake Island. Talk about a tiny dot in a big damn ocean. From there the logical direction was to the Solomons, namely Guadalcanal. After looking at the aerials of the spots, it was time to do some reading on the realities of it.

So ... wikipedia, here I am. Guadalcanal. Major General A. A. Vandegrift. Colonel Merritt Edson. General MacArthur. Lieutenant Commander Bulkeley. Hm, that rings a bell.

I dated a granddaughter of John Bulkeley about eight years ago. He passed away in 1996 - a damn shame, I'd have loved to meet the man.

From there I went to a list of Medal of Honor recipients. (Bulkeley was awarded the Medal of Honor for his command and actions with a PT squadron in the Phillipines between Pearl Harbor and the evacuation of MacArthur to Australia.) The list I was skimming included brief summaries of the citations - and a lot of asterisks indicating a posthumous award.

That brought back another memory. I was on an EMS call a few years ago, and as was my habit, I eyeballed the room around me as my partner interviewed the patient. Our patient was an elderly person, and on the mantle was a military portrait of a young man in uniform. Next to it was the triangular case of a folded American flag... and next to that was a display case of military medals. At the top of the case was The Medal.

The ribbon was sun-faded, the medal slightly tarnished - but the mantle, the picture, and the cases were spotless. The wood was clean and waxed, the glass fronts had no dust or fingerprints. I looked close enough to see that the last name on the citation was the same as our patient, but the flag made it obvious that this was another posthumous award.

How does one thank a parent for the life of their child? Is it possible?

I'm fairly sure our patient saw me looking at the picture and the award. Our eyes met and I gave a small nod. I hope it conveyed the message I intended, because I don't think there can ever be the right words for that situation.

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