Guest park for this Memorial Day: Cypress Hills National Cemetery, which I chanced upon while driving down Jamaica Avenue some weeks ago. A sea of white petals and tombstones under a weeping spring sky...no jumble of angels and Victorian mausoleums here, just chaste rows of nearly identical markers. Who were these marble regiments?
First set aside for Civil War dead (both Union soldiers and Confederate POWs), this is also the resting place of men who served in Verdun, in the Boxer Rebellion in China, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana, among others; there are even a few re-interred Revolutionary War vets here.
But the stones nearest at hand belonged to young men, presumably from Brooklyn, who served in the "Forgotten War"—Korea. Herbert Leonard (Infantry) and Patrick Montagano (Air Force) both died before their 20th birthdays.
It's strange just how forgotten this war is, since the brutal and insane dictatorship in North Korea is still jerking the world's chain and martyring its own people. Here is an excerpt from "Our War," by Korean War veteran Anthony DeBlasi, from a worthwhile site called Korean War Educator. Take a moment from those barbeques, beach trips and shopping sprees to listen:
In this "Land of the Morning Calm,"
No, Mourning Calm —
Lorded over by Chinese,
Savaged by the Japanese,
Ravaged by World War II —
Ever looking for a brighter future,
A gentle people, constantly misled,
Got hell instead.
When the shooting stopped,
Was it victory or stalemate?
After more than 50 years,
Some still wonder —
Why, why all that blood,
The unspeakable holocaust,
The infinite pain?
Was it all in vain?
Let no one doubt the outcome
Of that fight:
We put the murderous invaders back
Where they belonged,
And answered the respective quests
Of Kim and Mao and Joe
With No! and No! and No!
More: we helped the people of the south
Show their northern kinfolk and the world
The success of people set free
From fear and tyranny.
In every grateful heart —
Given a chance to live on their own terms,
Spared from further bomb and bullet,
Lord and sword —
We have our reward.