Guest Authors

Friday Morning at the Pentagon

Published: 27 November 2009

By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY
McClatchy  Newspapers

Over  the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines,  sailors and Air Force personnel have given their  lives in the terrible duty that is war.   Thousands more have come home on stretchers,  horribly wounded and facing months or years in  military  hospitals.

This  week, I'm turning my space over to a good friend  and former roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert  Bateman, who recently completed a yearlong tour  of duty in Iraq and is now back at the  Pentagon.

Here's  Lt. Col. Bateman's account of a little-known  ceremony that fills the halls of the Army  corridor of the Pentagon with cheers, applause  and many tears every Friday morning.  It  first appeared on May 17 on the Weblog of media  critic and pundit Eric Alterman at the Media  Matters for America Website.

"It is  110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring of  the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is  newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway  is broad, and the lighting is bright.  At  this instant the entire length of the corridor  is packed with officers, a few sergeants and  some civilians, all crammed tightly three and  four deep against the walls. There are  thousands here.

This  hallway, more than any other, is the `Army'  hallway.  The G3 offices line one side, G2  the other, G8 is around the corner.  All  Army.  Moderate conversations flow in a low  buzz.  Friends who may not have seen each  other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each  other, cross the way and  renew.

Everyone  shifts to ensure an open path remains down the  center.  The air conditioning system was  not designed for this press of bodies in this  area.

The  temperature is rising already.  Nobody  cares.  "10:36 hours: The clapping starts  at the E-Ring.  That is the outermost of  the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest  to the entrance to the building.  This  clapping is low, sustained, hearty.  It is  applause with a deep emotion behind it as it  moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

"A  steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at  the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who  marks the forward edge with his presence.   He is the first. He is missing the greater part  of one leg, and some of his wounds are still  suppurating.  By his age I expect that he  is a private, or perhaps a private first  class.

"Captains,  majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet  his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to  soldier.  Three years ago when I described  one of these events, those lining the hallways  were somewhat different.  The applause a  little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not  having shared in the burden ...  yet.

"Now  almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the  man in the wheelchair, also a combat  veteran.  This steadies the applause, but I  think deepens the sentiment.  We have all  been there now.  The soldier's chair is  pushed by, I believe, a full  colonel.

"Behind  him, and stretching the length from Rings E to  A, come more of his peers, each private,  corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a  field grade officer.

"11:00  hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady applause.   My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at  how stupid that sounds in my own head.  My  hands hurt...  Please!  Shut up and  clap.  For twenty-four minutes, soldier  after soldier has come down this hallway - 20,  25, 30....  Fifty-three legs come with them,  and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this  hall came 30 solid hearts.

They  pass down this corridor of officers and  applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at  which they are the guests of honor, hosted by  the generals. Some are wheeled along....   Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to  march as best they can with their chin held up,  down this hallway, through this most unique  audience.  Some are catching handshakes and  smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July  parade.  More than a couple of them seem  amazed and are smiling  shyly.

"There  are families with them as well: the 18-year-old  war-bride pushing her 19-year-old husband's  wheelchair and not quite understanding why her  husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew  up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is  crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who  have, perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for the emotion given on  their son's behalf.  No man in that  hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the  silent tears on more than a few cheeks.  An  Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better  see.  A couple of the officers in this  crowd have themselves been a part of this parade  in the past.

These  are our men, broken in body they may be, but  they are our brothers, and we welcome them  home.   This parade has gone  on, every single Friday, all year long, for more  than four years.

"Did  you know that?

The  media haven't yet told the  story."

V/R  TK
TOM KUNK
COL, GS
Division Chief for ODO
HQDA, G3/5/7

 

Comments   

 
# Rich 2009-11-27 06:13
May God Bless all of you for your sacrifice to our wonderful, free Nation!

Thank you for sharing this very personal ceremony, very touching and great to hear our Soldiers are always held high for their service and sacrifice.

God Bless America, land of the Free!
Let Freedom Ring!!
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# Scott Dudley 2009-11-27 07:58
I saw this story over a year ago and I am still moved by it. We are blessed to have such men in those corridors.
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# Steve Graves 2009-11-28 02:48
KUDOS to the Army for performing this ceremony every Friday. . . and double kudos to whomever came up with this idea in the first place.
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# john lawrence 2009-11-28 05:11
Brought tears to these old eyes. Also memories of the one we lost, SSGT Paul C. Mardis, Jr. 5 years ago. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him. Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for the men and women that you describe in this article. I pray that our political leadership makes the correct decisions for the long term benefit of the planet and the safety of our nation.
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# Slimming Pills 2009-11-28 22:21
We asked a dear friend of ours that occassionally works in at the Pentagon for the Army if this is this factual. Their response was "I was in the Pentagon a couple months back and caught part of this. I’m not sure that it happens every Friday."This is amazing and I am so happy our broken soldiers are being honored in such a hearfelt way. I just wish that this would carry over into the private sector.Whether or not we agree with the war and/or our governments decisions we should respect and honor those that have given of themselves to serve our country.
Slimming Pills
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# Nathan R. Jessup 2009-11-30 09:03
There is much that could be learned from the General Public being privy to this ceremony. THIS is how these heroes should be treated. Period.

Nathan R. Jessup
www.the-raw-deal.com
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# 5050noline 2009-11-30 13:03
What a wonderful gesture, so demonstrative of the spirit that binds us ex-service people together. I told a young man in my local supermarket who was joining up last year, probably in Afghan by now - You are joining the biggest 'old boys (n girls) club' in the civilised world. We look after our own, as best we may.

Honours for your/our wounded. You Yanks do it so well.

Jim Cheetham
Helo driver '63 to '76.
Royal Air Force.
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# William Athanasidy 2009-11-30 14:07
This ceremony should at least make one moment on the evening news every week; but, alas, will not. Seems Kipling's Tommies are still getting the cold shoulder from the civilians they man the lines for. I am proud to have served under the colors and thank the God who made us all for all who have given their bodies, and lives, for our freedom. Every soldier in that parade is head and shoulders above the good citizens who avert their eyes or ignore their sacrifices. I do not despair for the future, for I know, whether acknowledged or not, there will still be those who willingly take a soldier's chance and step up to hold the line for liberty.
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# AJ Austin 2009-11-30 17:13
Thank you, as you said I don't think alot of people know about this ceremony. I don't think that it is on the Pentagon show that is shown on Dish network. It should be that's for sure! Thank you again
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# Stuart Walker 2009-12-01 04:53
I picked this up on Robinson and Long, after reading many other pundits, trying to get a feel of what is going on today. Some of them were good, most were boring, even when I agreed with them. They were preaching to the choir.

Almost didn’t go to Michael’s blog because of the time it took for download (you need higher bandwidth on your hosting server, Michael: too many people are visiting)

Then I read Michael Yon’s offering from the Colonel and, half way through, tears were streaming down my face. This is a deeply, deeply moving account.

No one else can do that, certainly not the leftist media.

Michael Yon is the absolute best.
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# Traci Wilberger 2009-12-01 10:25
Thankyou so very much for posting this! It gripped my heart deeply and I too couldn't stop crying. These men and women are made of something special. I am so very proud to call them Americans. They have given so very much! I will think of this every Friday and lift them up in prayer.

I agree, Michael Yon is the best!!
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# Joe K 2009-12-02 09:46
Please know that even though we aren't there, many of us here will now be clapping with you each Friday.

Thank you all for the job you do, thank you for the sacrifices you make. Words cannot express...
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# Richard Jones 2009-12-03 14:28
This is an excellent exercise! We can't be there on Fridays so we wear RED to support our TROOPS on Friday! Semper-Fi the Jones family, Our son DJ is in the Marines in Afghan as we speak!
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# jtb 2009-12-04 03:50
It has been this way since the Vietnam War and we refused to punish traitors and eventually elected them to Congress and even the White House...

We owe these wounded warriors more than we can repay. But we show their killers and mentally ill people like "Jon and Kate" more courtesy...

May God forgive us, heal and transform our nation. May we be worthy of their sacrifice.
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# Jenda 2009-12-04 03:59
That was reported years ago, and also well, on National Review's site, but it is nice to see "the left" side pick it up too. Galloway sincerely loves the military and it was almost creepy how that feeling was sucking out of the left side of the national conversation until they regained control of political power. patriotism shouldn't be partisan.
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# Mona Sue Miller 2009-12-04 10:58
I could not focus my eyes to get an entire sentence read as the tears are still streaming. I only wish our great nation could know of these actions, as was stated, it should be shown nationally on every network and broadcast on radio. The pride of the servicemen towards this great nation and commitment to freedom is not something we as Americans take for granted. We are all in your debt.
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# Linda Warner 2009-12-06 07:26
I agree, we ALL should make a promise to ourselves at least to say a prayer for all our men and women in uniform and all who preceeded them. We, as a nation, owe them a big debt of gratitude and should honor them more than we do.
See Mona Millers bog.
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# Janie Davidson 2009-12-07 09:53
I thank God for our military. I also had difficulty reading through all of it because of the tears welling up out of thankfulness for these brave souls. Merry Christmas!
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# frank johns 2009-12-08 09:46
what a wonderful reconigtion to give these men . just for them to know that there are men and women who truely care . then suddenly realize that their not alone
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# John Fanghella 2010-02-03 02:28
I truly wish everyone in the nation would take the approach that this section of the Pentagon has taken towards our troops. I, being a former military member myself, take the time to pay my respects every time I see a man or woman in uniform. I did not get the chance to serve overseas so it is hard for me to see our men and women come home battered and bruised. But remember this america. They do this for you!!! They put thier necks on the line for you!!! Show some respect and show your troops that you care.
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# Stanley Howard Schwartz 2010-02-26 14:32
THe Pentagon staff is honring these men and women as they should. I wish I could join them. I ask only: Why we did noet totally defoliate the poppy fields of Afghanistan beginning on 12 September 2001, bankrupting the Afghan economy and destroying the Taliban's ability to wage war? May God bless and protect all our men and women in combat. May God comfort them and their families. Hand salute rendered.
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# K. Rice, Major, US Army 2010-03-14 07:16
I am perplexed what the added-in comment of "Did you know that? The media haven't yet told the story." at the end of the article actually means, since it is the "media" who has been reporting this in the first place all along. It must be some sort of silly partisan political comment. LTC Bateman's story first appeared on MSNBC.com some years ago, and then Joe Galloway reprinted it for McClatchey, and even the Washington Post has carried it! So how is the 'media' not doing it's job. In this day and age, if a member of the public can not find out about something, then it is that person's fault - they need to learn how to search for specific news items, not sit back thinking they will see everything on the front page, or in the headlines. The problems between the media and the military are that we in the military have consistently failed to earn the press' trust and co-opt them to your point of view.
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# Dale C 2010-04-22 15:01
@K.Rice do we have to "search" for stories on Abu Ghraib or the Seals who are currently on trial? How about Tigers affairs or Lindsey Lohan.

I understand your point, but I think you missed the point on the media. I don't think the media, overall, has done a good job reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Re: problems with the media and the military ... It is incredibly difficult to co-opt a group of people who actively oppose your point of view and are pre-disposed politically to fight you.
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