Wednesday, November 11, 2009

La Boue de Verdun

The last WWII veteran in my family, my dear Uncle Harold, died several years ago. With the passing of the generations goes too the immediacy of the wars of their generations. I have never had visceral experience, not even on the home front; only what was told to me by those who fought, and whose fathers, brothers, and uncles fought: the letters, stories, and memories that offer only hints of what it was like for them.

We live in wartime, but many of us are so removed from the fighting on foreign soil that it doesn't affect our daily lives, except in the political arguments we sometimes engage in from our safe distance. Yet, I know that for many other families here in America, of course, there is not this remove, and their loved ones are "over there." That Sarge, were it not for an accident of age, would have served.

When Sarge and I visited Paris, we spent some hours at the Musee de l'Armee at Les Invalides, where we found a strange little exhibit, an old WWI French Army uniform resting in a glass case. It appeared to be completely caked in dirt. When I bent to read the plaque, I saw that it said, simply, "La Boue de Verdun," the mud of Verdun. I will always think of that uniform, displayed in a corner behind glass, a tangible remnant of the fear, suffering, and the bravery. He was covered in battle, and he saved that muddy uniform carefully for so many many years, and although I don't remember the soldier's name, I remember today that mud, and think of him.

21 comments:

willow said...

Now, even though I've not seen the symbolic "mud of Verdun", I'll always think of it. Thank you for this touching post. Lest we forget.

Jen Chandler said...

Beautiful reminiscence. My father served in Vietnam. My grandfather in WWII and Korea. I am still moved when I see soldiers. This is such a moving post. Thank you for sharing.

Jen

Scarlet Blue said...

I have a coin from my Grandfather that was clipped by a bullet, and so the family story goes, this coin saved his life.
Lest we forget,
Sx

The Unbearable Banishment said...

People in this country don't live with the consequences and sacrifices of war that others have had to. Bukowski has a great poem about how other great cities have had bombs rain down on them, but we here in the States have been spared all that. Even 9/11 is dwarfed by what happened to London, Dresden and countless other cities in history. It's good and appropriate to have these remembrances.

Brian Miller said...

a touching post leah...i recently read the things they carried...which brought to mind the thoughts of war and its affect on the men and women who serve... i was struck by the image of the mud...today i am remembering

mago said...

Wonder what my grandfather (my father's father) would have saied about that. He served the whole war through and took part in the battle of Verdun, somewhere I have his Soldbuch. He survived externally unharmed but vanished for some time after the war, was not particulary proud of his Iron Crosses, a taylor from Silesia.

otin said...

I love it when people really care about things! I can see that you are one of those people!

savannah said...

today is our eldest son's birthday. this year, like very year, i remember those mothers who weep tears of sadness for sons long gone. a moving tribute, sugar.

lest we forget.

xoxoxo

nick said...

A uniform caked with mud is a more vivid reminder of the reality of war than a pristine, freshly-pressed one, though the latter is what you tend to see in museums. But the mud and blood and injury is the truth, not the shiny badges and medals.

Hunter said...

Very touching post, Leah.

Jimmy Bastard said...

It would be a rare occasion on which I personally would enter into a discussion on those who have fallen for their countries.

We all remember our people with pride.

Poetikat said...

You've really captured all aspects of this day of remembrance—both tangible and intangible. So true, that when those who served disappear it is easy to feel that "remove" as you put it.
I just recently watched a British drama based on a play about Rudyard Kipling's son, who died at the Battle of Loos in W.W.I. It really put their experience at the forefront of my mind. It's called, "My Boy, Jack" and I recommend it. (Surprisingly, Kim Cattrall does a commendable job of playing Kipling's wife.)

Ronda Laveen said...

Sometimes the simplest things, like mud, represent so much more than what it appears on the surface.

Ponita in Real Life said...

Very thoughtful post, Leah... as is the norm for you. Thank you.

Lest we forget.

Megan said...

I was reading about the ceremonies in Britain - the last guys who served in The Great War died earlier this year. Time passes.

mapstew said...

The Ma & Da were married during W.W.2. A lot of the stories I remember from my childhoood are ones Ma told me about when Da was in the army then. And rationing. She especially missed butter! Only being allowed 2oz. per week! To this day she still spreads it at least 1/4 inch thick on bread!

Da was so proud of his time in the army. Not long before he died I made a very good friend who was a captain in the army, and Da would stand and salute every time he came into our home in uniform.

We remember.

The Idle Devil said...

You said it! Its very humbling to experience a bit of a soldier's struggle during one of the worst wars.

Baino said...

Very touching and small contributors as we are, I am grateful for our men and women in uniform and their efforts over the years. Sadly we celebrate our loss at ANZAC cove in Turkey and tend to forget the thousands of Australians who fought in many northern arenas with their more powerful comrades.

Candie Bracci said...

That is really nice Leah!Really nice!:)

muralimanohar said...

My mom abandoned everything about her previous life when she got married and had us kids, so I have very little connection to anything prior to the early 70's, when I was able to learn things myself. Add in, we abandoned my dad and his entire side when I was 8, due to his own fuckwit-ness, and my disconnect is complete. I must absolutely have family who served for their country, but I have no idea. Sad.

I leave it up to you and people like you to teach and remind me.

Tina said...

Very moving. I love the war poets and this has made me go back and reread some Wilfred Owen. My grandfather was in the trenches in WW1, but he came home thank God.