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Friday's at the Pentagon


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This was e-mailed to me by a friend.


Joe Galloway, you may recall, was the young reporter in the Mel Gibson movie, "We Were Soldiers", and the book from which the movie was made was based on his experiences in Viet Nam.



Friday Morning at the Pentagon

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 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

Web site.


"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.

Christ. 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



"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



"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

hasn't told the story.


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I'm just about to cry. But happy in my heart that someone is giving them the respect that they need. And I'm proud for all of them. My husband was in the army in vietnam. And they did not get any respect or welcome home. So I'm glad they are respected for doing a job to keep us safe and to have the freedoms that we do have.

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How am I meant to start my day with tears?


Australia stands with USA as allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have not had the carnage that you have paid ... these men and women have paid our debt

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