279 | Memorial Day

May 27, 2013
Monday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #279: Memorial Day


Dear Family

Happy Memorial Day! As a proud member of a military family, I take Memorial Day very seriously. Mark (for those of you who aren’t exactly family: my youngest brother) has been advancing steadily in the Coast Guard, even being specially designated for leadership classes and more challenging assignments. (His greatest accomplishment is Heather, of course, who in King James-speak is “great with child.”) I’m proud of him, so when I was up on my top bunk this afternoon watching the Memorial Day Concert on PBS, I applauded our active service members. And then they asked all the family members of our military to stand. I had to stoop because of the ceiling, but I proudly stood.

We are privileged to live in a country where brave men and women sacrifice their time, energy, careers, and their very lives to ensure our freedoms. Take time to thank them.

At the opposite end of the “Benefit to the Country” spectrum are the men I live with. Not a lot of benefitting others is going on over here, and many of these guys wouldn’t know what common courtesy was if it reached out and shook their hand. In fact, recent events have made me wonder if some should ever be returned to a free society, earned by braver souls.

Last week, a prison gang attacked and fought with about 10 black guys in a pod on the adjacent compound. After taking everyone involved to the segregation unit (or the “hole”), the prison staff re-populated that pod with guys from my pod. It isn’t so bad losing decent guys—the problem is when they are replaced with idiots. And, for some reason, we’ve certainly received our share of idiots.

One guy constantly mutters swear words under his breath and doesn’t like to be talked to; another guy has OMD (Obsessive Microwave Disorder) and stands in front of our pod’s only microwave, spinning the knob to add even more time to the hideous mixture of the day; and yet another guy randomly barks like a Rottweiler whose property you have trespassed upon. The mashup of sights and sounds produces a constant din of headache ingredients.

A couple of days ago, I’d opted to not go to lunch, and I missed a riot in the chow hall. Four guys jumped another guy who held his own. When the guards finally subdued his attackers with cans of pepper spray, he lunch-trayed one guy in the head before performing dental work on him with his foot.

Back in our pod after being locked down for 24 hours, my reclusive next-door neighbor who hates me ran up to a friend of mine and started swinging his fists. Unfortunately for him, the fists never landed. By the time the guards had it all sorted out, my neighbor looked like he’d been in a bad motorcycle accident without a helmet. Proud to a fault, he refused to be seen by the medical staff here, though he can only see them through one eye now. He’s been staying in his cell out of embarrassment, not even going to meals, so I sent a bunch of food to him through his cellie. I made sure he wouldn’t know it was from me so that he’d feel comfortable eating it. I still pray for him, but I wasn’t thrilled that my friend had to move out while my neighbor stayed.

So, while some are fighting around the world to maintain our freedoms, others fight to throw theirs away. Bark! Bark!