Fridays at the Pentagon

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Date: Sat, May 7, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Subject: Fwd: Fridays at the Pentagon


  **Mornings at the Pentagon

    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

This week, I'm turning my space over to a good friend and
former roommate,
Army Lt. Col.. Robert Bateman, who recently completed a year
long 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

"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

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
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.

majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as
applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I described one of
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
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

"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,
more than their wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for the emotion
on their son's behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping,
ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks. An Airborne
wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple of the officers in this
have themselves been a part of this parade in the past.

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
long, for more than four years.

"Did you know that?** ** ** **Don't send
it back to me, just send it on its
way as you see fit.**

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