A Day to Remember

Memorial Day is a day to remember lost ones–in both our own real world and through worlds of fiction.
on May 23, 2019 · 10 comments

It’s interesting to me that the United States has both a Memorial Day and a Veterans Day. It has seemed to me on many occasions one such holiday would be enough. That may seem especially strange to say given I’m a veteran. (Yes, I’m going to post more about a US holiday than about speculative fiction, though I will apply my comments to fiction as well.)

A natural division between Veterans/Memorial lies in the fact that not all the fallen we may wish to honor on Memorial Day are veterans and not all veterans who have died did so in combat. But veterans who died in combat are still the first people I think of on Memorial Day. Though this year, there will be two people that especially matter to me above all others this Memorial Day. Both were veterans but only one died in a war.

Major Wolfer, as he will always be remembered.

The first is Major Stuart Adam Wolfer, a friend of mine who died in Iraq in 2008, in an enemy rocket attack, while I happened to be less than a football field’s length away from him, an event that wounded 17 and killed 2. (I helped with the wounded but did not know until later that Stu had died.) His family founded an institute to remember him, MSAWI, that helps Jewish military members in combat zones (Major Wolfer was Jewish). He and I were friends but not the very best of friends (to simply tell the truth), but his untimely death and where it happened, that I was there and that I saw the aftermath of the attack (even though, thankfully perhaps, I didn’t see him), makes his death especially–shall I say “memorable”?

And Stuart Adam Wolfer reminds me that war costs lives, even lives you wouldn’t expect to lose. That responsible citizens who people admire are selectively killed in wars generally at higher rates than people everyone agrees are terrible. Which is one of war’s great tragedies.

The second name I will especially remember on Memorial Day is my son, Mikhail Daniel Perry, a US Marine Corps Reserve veteran who had a peacetime deployment that took him to South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and Guam, all places I’ve never traveled, while serving as part of a maintenance crew for F-18 fighter jets. My son was willing to embrace discipline and sacrifice, though he had no desire to stay in the USMC beyond his initial enlistment.

Mik (as everyone called him) died in an accident, not in a war, but received a veteran’s burial at Fort Sill National Cemetery.

The thing his untimely death has in common with Stu’s is both deaths were of people almost everyone would agree were more decent and self-sacrificing than average, people willing to serve others. Men who were not selfish, or at least were significantly less so that people generally are.

Yet a strange thing is that both will not age any more…both will remain frozen in memory as they were, while the rest of us slowly move to join them, moment by moment approaching the time we will join them in our own graves. Their deaths are not less tragic because of that, but they remind us that all death is tragic, all human life ends with a potential for us to have done more, seen more, experienced more. Though of course some come much closer to a full life than others.

I put a verse referencing the resurrection from the dead on my son’s headstone because I believe our human desire for life after death is not just wishful thinking. It’s a desire put in us from the beginning, from the God who created us, who makes it available to us by his actions, not ours. I believe that resurrection will come, but death is still with us in the meantime. And it’s still right and appropriate to remember those who passed away before us, those who did great things for us, for our country, for our world, and even for our personal lives.

So how does this relate to speculative fiction, to the mission of Speculative Faith?

I first of all find some fictional portrayals of war rather too enthusiastic about it. War is ultimately the product of sin and kills good people. Yes, it is often necessary (and it isn’t a sin to kill in all cases in my view)–and at times is even glorious in that it can highlight human self-sacrifice and courage. But it’s still an ugly business. It costs the lives of good people like Major Stuart Adam Wolfer.

Obviously people are going to write what they write and read what they read and I can’t change that. But I hope people will write stories that feature warriors who in fact look forward to peace. Because there are many of us like that.

And I further hope our fiction points to the hope of the resurrection, even in worlds vastly unlike the one we inhabit. Because that longing for genuine life after death is a deep part of who human beings are–and that should be reflected in our fiction.

And a final tidbit I can offer to the world of writing is to point out that fictional cultures will have their own ways to remember their dead, both the valiant and the so-called “ordinary” deaths. So please don’t forget that.

Travis Perry is a hard-core Bible user, history, science, and foreign language geek, hard science fiction and epic fantasy fan, publishes multiple genres of speculative fiction at Bear Publications, is an Army Reserve officer with five combat zone deployments. He also once cosplayed as dark matter.
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  1. Wow, Travis. I’m sorry for your loss. I know that may seem cheap or too easy. . . but it is what it is. Thank you for your service, as well. I honestly don’t think I would be able to handle stuff like that.

  2. Teish says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss Travis. It must have been hard to write about, but thank you for sharing.

  3. Very good article, very to the point. I am sorry for your loss. My best friend, Pvt. Larry Newberry, died in Vietnam, so I know the grief of losing someone to war.
    —-David W. Landrum
    3rd Infantry Division, 1970-1973, Schweinfurt, Germany

  4. I’m very sorry to hear about your friend and your son 🙁 I don’t really know what to say, but thank you for being willing to discuss this with us. I know that it can be hard to think back on these things.

    As for what you said about fiction…one reason I like Fate Zero and Naruto/Naruto Shippuden is because, although there is a lot of war and bloodshed, they discuss a lot of philosophy on the subject, there are plenty of characters that are struggling against the hardships and genuinely want peace and happiness. Naruto Shippuden delves very deep into that, in fact. It does make stories more meaningful that way. The chars mainly just want peace and happiness, and what peace and happiness they do have attains far more meaning because the chars know exactly how precious that peace is. I agree that we do need more stories with peace loving warriors.

  5. notleia says:

    Good time to break out the WWI poetry, if you ask me:

    ‘They’ by Siegfried Sassoon

    The Bishop tells us: ‘When the boys come back
    ‘They will not be the same; for they’ll have fought
    ‘In a just cause: they lead the last attack
    ‘On Anti-Christ; their comrades’ blood has bought
    ‘New right to breed an honourable race,
    ‘They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.’

    ‘We’re none of us the same!’ the boys reply.
    ‘For George lost both his legs; and Bill’s stone blind;
    ‘Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die;
    ‘And Bert’s gone syphilitic: you’ll not find
    ‘A chap who’s served that hasn’t found some change.’
    And the Bishop said: ‘The ways of God are strange!’

  6. Steve Courteol says:

    So sorry to hear such losses… You spoke so eloquently. If I may attach a coupleof verses I wrote to the tune, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”

    Eternal Spirit Who has made,
    The home to build and not the blade,
    Give courage when the battle’s call,
    Shall bring us out to give our all,
    Oh, hear us when we pray to Thee,
    In falling tumults, soon to be,

    In muddy fields of foreign lands,
    By sea waves washing bloody sands,
    From air to fall, or lost at sea,
    The keeper of their souls shall be,
    Oh, gracious Father, welcome home,
    Our fallen heroes ne’er alone,

    Where e’er is honor in the fight,
    When courage rises in the night,
    When darkness blocks our vision clear,
    Let none despair tho’ foes be near,
    Let none retreat from blood-bought ground,
    By risen sword peace shall be found,

    When Heaven’s dawn at last shall rise,
    And light shall brighten crystal skies,
    Be Thou our portion then, as now,
    As we before Thy throne do bow,
    And crowns before Your feet do cast,
    When days of blood and wars are past,

What do you think?