Doug Fargo’s ceremony at Arlington
I think it would be appropriate to pause briefly in our busy lives, in the midst of the acrimony and disillusionment surrounding the presidential election where sarcasm and cynicism abound, and no institution, policy or procedure is above reproach to dwell on something positive — just for a moment. On 16 August precisely at 1 p.m. as scheduled, World War II and Korean War veteran Douglas Fargo was buried with full military honors in our National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
On that day Doug’s service was one of 35 or 40 conducted as his remains were respectfully laid to rest joining over 400,000 U.S. veterans already there. In both wars that he fought so gallantly in (he received a battlefield commission at the personal direction of General Patton and led nine combat patrols in Korea including a place called “Heart Break Ridge”) Doug was a very small part of a huge mobilization effort. America had gone to war again, and individual hopes, and dreams personal desires and those unique aspects that make each human being so special were set aside to transform young Americans into fighting machines taught not to think about consequences, but to faithfully carry out orders and fulfill the missions assigned. In a well- trained unit, the squad, platoon, company, etc., thought, and acted as one living on adrenaline and the lan of something larger and more powerful than themselves. Men became faceless numbers statistics, symbols and quantifiable entities reflected strengths and vulnerabilities on field maps as tactics were employed and battles won or lost. Somehow for those making the decisions, it was easier that way. But the whole was always greater than the sum of its parts.
The most basic premise of the U.S. military was, and still is, that individual contributions have indelible value, sacrifices (casualties in particular) are not easily given never lightly regarded and never ever forgotten. When Doug Fargo reluctantly climbed out of a cold, wet foxhole in the Ardennes forest in 1944, or a bunker on some steep hillside above the 38th parallel to lead his men on another perilous patrol, it was very personal. It took raw courage to suppress his anxieties, to instill confidence in his men and lead them knowing that some, possibly all of them, might not make it back.
That is the point of my letter. The United States Government, the U.S. Military, didn’t forget didn’t lose sight of one man’s personal commitment, self discipline and courage. Seventy two years after his combat role as a non commissioned officer in Germany and sixty-four years after serving as a young officer in Korea, our national government paused for an hour to remember and appropriately honor an old soldier. The ceremony was impeccable, executed with superb professionalism by proud men from all services, providing military music, managing well drilled horses pulling the flag draped caisson, sounding taps, firing the requisite volley and recalling in a quiet eulogy the high points of Doug’s career and service to his country.
It made me very proud to see that this massive government of ours, reflecting the mood swings of 325 million people, managed through an imperfect political system, despite all of its shortcomings did it right. It recognized a proud old veteran who had kept faith with his nation and received in turn his brief, but unhurried moment in the sun and the respect that he so richly deserved.