Posted by: Kimberly Dredger | August 31, 2010

The Last Half-Staff

I came of age during the Vietnam War era.  Each morning as I approached the high school I attended, I would pay attention to the flag flying in front of the school, looking to see if the flag was at half or full-staff.  Half-staff meant that another Montana boy had died in Vietnam.  Too often, far too often, the flag was halfway down the pole.  And my heart would ache again.

I have told you that I come from a Marine family.  My father was a Marine in WWII and lovingbrotherBill is a Marine.  And yes, Bill served in Vietnam.  While he was there, there was not one single day or night that the family rested.  One of my most treasured memories of that time took place at Christmas, and it was a very sad Christmas for us, as my mother’s mother had just died. Bill was stationed in Da Nang that year, and couldn’t come home for the funeral.  He had scored a ticket to the Bob Hope Show, a variety show the great comedian put on to entertain the troups that was televised back home in the states, and we were at home, watching the show live.  It gave us such great comfort to know that at the very least, Bill was safe at THAT moment, happy at THAT moment.  And then, the camera panned the audience, and for one blessed minute, focused only on my brother’s face.  At home in Montana, we saw lovingbrotherBill laughing and cheering, safe and happy.  The memory brings tears to my eyes, even these many years later.  We were blessed.  We got our boy home.  So very many didn’t.

This past weekend, in Montana, the flags flew at half-staff again.  They have been flying so, very far too often, for our young men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  My heart breaks fresh each and every time I see the flag, halfway down the pole.  But this time, the flag wasn’t at half-staff for a current loss.  No, this was the last half-staff for a loss in Vietnam. You see, 1st Lt. Paul Magers had been shot down in his helicopter on June 1, 1971, two weeks after arriving in ‘Nam.  The crash was unsurvivable, but it wasn’t until 2008 that his remains were recovered.  Lt. Magers was brought home and buried on Friday, and flags in Montana flew at half-staff all weekend in his honor.

Humans have been at war our entire, whole history.  There is very little hope that we will ever become wise enough to live without war.  But what a waste.  What a sad and vicious waste of the best of us.  The dead who come home in their caskets aren’t even our only losses.  What about the vets who come home damaged, physically and emotionally.  Have you seen the many documentaries about veterans who are learning to live with the loss of a limb, or the loss of two limbs, three or four?  The loss of a face?  Their physical problems are just the start of what they will deal with.  Imagine trying to hug your young child when your arms are gone and your face is unrecognizable.  

There is very little hope that the human race will EVER learn how to stop this tragic waste.  But there is very great hope that we can do something to help the veterans who come home.  The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation is strongly involved in helping veterans deal with their injuries.  This is one way YOU can do something today to help that ache in your heart you feel for our losses on the battlefield. Please give.  If you choose to, you can do so at the second button down on the right, right here on this page.  

I would like to say that this weekend the flags in Montana flew at half-staff for the very last time.  Unfortunately, that is just not the case.  There will be more loss.  Do your part to honor those who serve.  Thank a veteran.  Please.  And honor in your heart those who aren’t coming home.

Go Forward, my friends.  Go forward.

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Responses

  1. What a wonderful post, my dear sister!

    And we had a personal loss too. Our fellow church member David Thatcher, who had flown with Doolittle over Tokyo when the war was still in doubt survived that, but his son Gary, also a helicopter pilot like Lt. Magers, died in Vietnam.


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