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  • Mj Pettengill

Farewell Kisses


Library of Congress - Unidentified Union Soldier

I remembered gatherin’ at the train station. The wind blew the last of the brittle, orange leaves from the unbendin’ trees, and the sky spat icy rain. God Himself was furious. Papa mustered with the men of the Sixth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, all puffed up with pride and filled with the fightin’ spirit. It was oddly festive for such an unfortunate event.


I watched the short, plump man in the brass band. The dimpled bell of his peculiar long horn rested on his shoulder—a perfect fit. His crimson cheeks bulged out like the shiny frogs in the pond behind the feed store. He swayed from side to side while they played “Yankee Doodle.” As always, the sound of a brass band sent Sarah’s spirit flyin’ and was possibly the reason that she became a fine cornetist a few years later. Some folks sang along. Not me; I didn’t feel much like singin’.


I took notice of the men folk when they returned, lookin’ straight past me with their hollow eyes and drooped shoulders. Mother said that their bodies came back, but their spirits were left behind with their fallen brothers. Amos Weeks lost an eye durin’ a battle at a place called Bull Run, while Hiram Putnam came home with his leg missin’, of course he got a wooden one. Silas said he took to the jug, never to be the same.


I squeezed Papa’s rough, beefy hand with all my strength, unwillin’ to let go. He dabbed my tears with the one handkerchief that I embroidered myself. “Don’t you cry. I will be home,” he promised.


The band played “Red, White, and Blue.” A chorus of men sang out as Papa placed a partin’ kiss on my forehead and then Sarah’s before takin’ Mother into his arms. How were we to know that this farewell kiss would be the last? Abigail Hodgdon - June 30, 1872 Excerpt: Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series - Book One ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On this Memorial Day and every day, we must ask ourselves, 'how many farewell kisses will it take before we find another way to resolve our differences?' Those who serve in the military should be supported, honored, and respected. When they return home, it is essential to acknowledge what has been sacrificed and ensure that the wounds that we do not see with our eyes are acknowledged and healed. We cannot heal that which we do not see, or accept, or be able to integrate. The trauma does not just melt away. It stays with all of us in various forms for countless generations. If we expect these man and women to give their lives, we can, in return, respond to their sacrifice with appropriate compassion and care. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Death of a P.O.W. Finally, this post is dedicated to an exceptional man who recently lost his battle with COPD. His name was Richard G. Burgess. He was a P.O.W. for six and a half years during the Vietnam War. I became close to Richard and learned more than I can begin to express in a basic blog post. One aspect of his care that became known to me was how he was left in a maze of jumbled paperwork—dense and rigid obstacles—just to receive basic care. With so many in the (VA) system and the fact that it is continuously in a state of flux, it was disturbing to witness that if he wasn't able to navigate the jungle, so he went without. This came to my attention when he was super-gluing his broken tooth instead of having it properly fixed. At that time, I assisted him in getting proper attention, care, and appointments, but I could see how complex and discouraging this process was. I hope that in recent years, his care was satisfactory. He moved across the country, so I cannot say. Richard also taught me (unintentionally) about being mindful of my use of words. For example, if I missed breakfast or too much time had passed between lunch and dinner, I might say, "I'm starving."


No. No, I was not. I heard the stories, one being how more than once, he was at the brink of starvation while on a salt and rice diet. The taste buds on this tongue fell off, and he had beriberi and rickets. People are starving everywhere, all of the time.


And if you don't like broccoli? Never complain around me. Many would be grateful for the opportunity to access this nutrition.


I'm an American, so of course, my world is filled with veterans. I honor them all. Amidst the new and constant threat of war, may we find our way to Peace on Earth. May we lead the way. Rest in Peace, Richard. Mj Pettengill

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