Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day is to remember the fallen

Tom Dier in Vietnam in 1970
     The Jerry Corp Memorial Highway is not long. A section of U.S. Highway 160, it runs two and a half miles through Ozark County, Missouri, 250 miles southwest of St. Louis.
     A green highway sign flashes by, the name registers and some drivers may feel a passing curiosity: does anybody remember Jerry Corp?
     Tom Dier remembers him.
     ”We weren’t really close or anything like that,” said Dier, 70. “He wasn’t in my platoon.”
     A mortar platoon in Company C, First Battalion, 52nd Infantry. Corp was a radioman attached to the command post in Quang Ngai province Vietnam.
     ”We got to know each other that way,” said Dier, who grew up in Northbrook and has returned home to speak at the northwest suburb’s Memorial Day commemoration after the parade Monday. “You didn’t really get close to people too much.”
     In fact, Dier has exactly one memory of Corp, but it’s a good one.
     ”Someone on the perimeter called in for a routine fire mission, asking for illumination,” Dier plans to say in his speech. “I dropped a round down the 81-millimeter mortar tube. The shot went out, and we waited for the familiar pop and the subsequent intense light that the round would provide as it drifted slowly back to the ground for several hundred feet in the air.
     “The descending illumination revealed a nearby hillside covered in jungle. Jerry and I laughed as the flare drifted toward the hillside, watching a multitude of chirping birds who mistook the flare for a sunrise. The noise from the birds stopped suddenly—as if a switch had been flipped—when the flare burned out.”

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  1. A touching narrative. One wonders how the nature of Memorial Day may change as the shifting nature of warfare means that proportionally fewer men and women serve, and fewer yet see combat. After Hannibal destroyed a huge Roman army at Cannai it was said that every Roman household mourned a loss. As the WW II generation passes testimony from those who have seen the face of battle begins to be less available. One hopes the loss doesn't make us more warlike.



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