Angels on the Battlefield
The sculpture below speaks to my heart. I’ve never even seen the finished piece but I don’t need to. It already says everything just as it is. This was a work in progress in 2014 and from what I understand it was being created for an art show. I can’t imagine it didn’t win first prize.
If I was an artist, this is a piece I’d want to create…
Description from the sculptor, Larry Binkowski
Angels on the Battlefield is a memorial sculpture created both as a tribute and a reminder of the sacrifices made by the nation’s fallen war heroes. The sculpture features a lone modern day warrior mortally wounded in battle. The figure of the soldier is symbolic of all the service branches of the military, both men and women. The soldier is faithfully watched over by an angelic figure, a somber look graces her face as she gazes down at her newly acquired charge. Her wings shelter him as her hands reach out as if to protect him from further harm. The heavenly guardian comforts and cares for the soldier as would all of those that will now be touched by his departure. The pictures are of the work in progress. The sculpture will be finished in cast stone. The following inscription will be engraved on the front. “When the brutality of war has ended and the cool chill of darkness steals your last remaining breath away, may you find the comfort and compassion of your loved ones in the warm embrace of angels”
(Larry Binkowski is a primarily a self taught sculptor from Auburn Hills, Michigan. He started his sculpture career as a figurative and portrait sculptor with commissions coming from both the public and private sector).
I consider it a responsibility to help my children grow up with an appreciation for those who serve and an understanding of how a dedicated few, just a tiny fraction of our citizens, are willing to go forth and risk everything so that the majority can can go about their lives putting little on the line but benefitting so greatly. We are happy to take the gifts they give but those gifts weren’t ginned up out of thin air. Those who lost their lives in the the service of our country gave everything to win them for us. Those gifts were paid for by men like Danny Dietz and countless others whose names we’ll never know.
My son, who is 12, wrote a couple of lines about Memorial Day
“Memorial Day is important for people to recognize. People in the military work to keep us safe. Some of them never make it home. I think if that was me, my mom would be sad but proud. Sometimes fighting is necessary and there are things worth dying for like freedom, honor, our country and protecting people. It’s that whole, better to die on your feet rather than live on your knees, thing. Memorial Day is to recognize these people and pay tribute to them.”
One of the quotes I think about a lot is something George S. Patton said. “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.” I appreciate that but suffice it to say that Patton was a little tougher than I am.
Memorial day rolls around each year and each year I take a few quiet minutes over the weekend to reflect on those who gave their last measure of devotion in the service of our country. For me, that’s not such an unusual thing. I think about our fallen all the time. I think about those rows upon rows of white headstones in our military cemeteries and about the men, long dead, who battled to protect the interests of the rest of America’s citizens in conflicts concluded before I took my first breath. I think about those lost in our more current wars. Sometimes I contemplate a particular quote from George S. Patton. He said “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” I can only manage to get half of that right. I do thank God that such men lived, but I feel an anxious tug when they pass. I think about their mothers and children…and it stings my heart. My friend, Gary Dolan, a Vietnam veteran and Army Ranger, created a touching piece about honoring the memory of the fallen on Memorial Day. He wrote “I believe our country deserves to be happy and free, because that happiness and freedom was bought with the blood of our fallen heroes. I think our fallen heroes would appreciate that our country is happy and free and would gladly accept that as a wonderful tribute to their sacrifice.” That sounds right to me. I think we honor them by living well, by being generous with each other, by showing kindness to our neighbors, by loving our families. We honor them by appreciating the hard-won liberties we enjoy and also by doing our part to protect and extend them to future generations.
When I was a child, we used to drive by the rows and rows of white headstones that cover the landscape at the Golden Gate National Cemetery. Even when I was very young, the sight gave me pause. I don’t remember now, if I prayed for those buried there but I know I thought about them long after the headstones were tiny specks in the distance. I always wanted to visit, I wanted to walk up and down the rows and read the inscriptions on the stones. I asked to stop many times but my parents didn’t take my requests seriously and I never got the chance. I surmise they thought it would be upsetting to me but I never felt that way. I simply wanted to walk there, to feel the atmosphere, to think inside the quiet blanket that surrounded the place. In my own way, I wanted to “talk” to the men who were buried there.
These days I think a lot about those who served and who are currently serving. I think about our fallen and I pray for them and the families/friends they leave behind. I think about how to conduct myself to best honor their service, their sacrifice and to show my gratitude in a concrete way.
On March 2nd 2012, I wrote the following
“This very day, this very hour someone is engaged in a life or death struggle on your behalf. Do not forget to be grateful and by extension show that gratitude by living so that your life is worth the price paid to protect it.”
That’s what I try to do each and every day. I try to make good use of the time I have. That’s because each day I’m given to do my work here is a gift paid for by somebody else.
Enjoy your time, hug your friends, hold your family close…be kind to each other…
I think a reasonable way to honor our fallen is to make good use of the time we have here. Many of them died so very young. They gave their lives in battle before they even had much of a chance to live. I believe they would want us to strive with diligence, to love and hold our family and friends close and to enjoy the beautiful moments that can be found even in the midst of turmoil. I think we owe them that…a life well lived, a nod of acknowledgement and appreciation and a commitment to defending the principles they died for in our daily lives. I think it’s fitting that Memorial Day is a day we set aside to reflect but also to spend time gathering, breaking bread and enjoying each other.
Many years ago when I was an eighth grader my friends and I would occasionally gather on a Friday afternoon at a girlfriend’s house and open a few bottles of beer (if her parents weren’t watching closely). We felt quite daring and sophisticated in our little private girl’s school uniforms. We each wore a white middy, a navy tie, navy pleated skirt, white socks and Oxford shoes that took a lot of polishing to keep shiny white. We’d stand around by the flower beds with our cups.
We never drank out of the bottles, just cups, since that’s how we were taught proper ladies enjoyed their libations. We’d use a bottle opener swiped from the kitchen to pop the top off and before pouring the beer, the designated distributer would tip the bottle and christen the soil saying “For those of us who aren’t here.” I have no idea exactly how or why that little ritual started but we did it every time. One of us probably saw an older sibling or parent do it and simply copied it thinking it was cool. None of us had an idea who the words were for but we did it faithfully.
Today as I sit in the backyard relaxing and enjoying my family and friends, I’ll do the same, this time not with beer but with a deeply flavored, delicious red wine . I’ll say those very same words only now that I’m all grown up I know exactly who they’re for…
On this day in May, year 2013, I wish you and yours a little slice of perfect. I’m delighted that I got to spend just a few minutes of it with you. Let’s raise a glass to another day of life. Cheers!