Thursday, May 18, 2006

His Name is Milo Freeman

"Only in death do we have names. Only in death are we no longer part of the effort. Only in death are we no longer part of Project Mayhem." --Chuck Palahniuk

Several evenings ago, my wife and I were relaxing at home, cleaning up after dinner. I was working on a beer as we conversed about my latest entry.

"So," I said to her after a while. "I think I've come to a decision on something." I moved over to the living-room window, pulling it open to light up a cigarette.


I nodded, taking a pull off my beer.

"Yeah. I think I've decided that, when I die, I don't want a military funeral."

My wife looked up, clearly caught by surprise. "Really?"

I nodded, pursing my lips. "Yeah."

She cocked her head. "Why not?"

I didn't respond right away. I lit up and took a drag, taking care to blow my smoke out the open window. I sighed, and shook my head.

"I dunno. I just think that, if something happens to me, I don't want my legacy limited to the war I died in. That's all. I don't want to be remembered just as Specialist Freeman."

She nodded. She bit her lip and narrowed her eyes, thinking, before looking up and issuing her response.

"You don't want all those rituals? The twenty-one-gun salute? The flag on the coffin? All those rituals that might give comfort to your family?" She gives me a wry smile, tinged with a hint of sadness.

I shook my head. "I dunno." A pause. "I mean, I wouldn't mind a military funeral or memorial. It's just... I guess I want to be remembered for the human being that I was. Not the job I that I did."

She nods and shrugs. "I can see that. It's only right that that you should die as Milo David Freeman. Not just Specialist Freeman. I can handle that, I guess."

"Yeah." I take another drink of my beer. "I dunno. If you really think that the military funeral might make things easier for my family, then I say do it. But don't let me be remembered that way. I wasn't always a soldier. That would only be like two years of my life. Give them something to remember me for who I was."

"Okay." She sits down at the couch, looking at me.

"Does that include even if you die when you're 65,70? Or just if something happens to you downrange?"

I turn to the windowsill, mashing out my cigarette. "I don't know," I finally tell her. "I'll get back to you."

At twenty-three years old, it's insane that I should even have to be thinking about things like this. But they prey on my mind lately. I may be young, but for years now I've just felt so old; older than I have any right to feel. If you feel like that, I wonder, can the end really be that far away?

If I die, then I want to go to the end with my own true name--not just a rank or serial number. If I die as a soldier, I fear that my true human dignity--my identity, my life--will simply be lost on the ones I loved. And I don't want that. I want the whole person to be in their memories. I want them to remember how I felt, what I said, what I saw and believed. Once I die, my duty to my country has ended. Once I die, I cease being a soldier. I want to go to my end as a Man.

To paraphrase the film Fight Club, "In death, a soldier has a name. His name is Milo Freeman."

His name is Milo Freeman.

My name is Milo Freeman.


Blogger Frap Gurl said...

Nice post.. When do you go..

I agree at the age of 23 you are extremely mature.. I swear the military does that to poeple! Not a bad thing.. Look at civilian men your age.. ACK!!!

Iraq is a buzz killer!

2:22 PM  
Blogger Let said...

Heightened self awareness is the most precious gift of an open mind. It's not easy to do as you also serve your country. I am glad you seem to be able to do both simultaneously. Good post.

2:37 PM  
Blogger LibraryTavern Liz said...

Nice post. I'm intrigued.

Thanks for stopping by the LibraryTavern and commenting.

6:18 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

I think it's interesting* you draw a distinction between your soldier identity--see it as reductive--and your 'real' identity, which is somehow more complete and representative of your self(perception).

I don't know how you feel, obviously, since I don't live inside your biochemistry. I could hazard a guess (and evidently, am doing so) that feeling old beyond your years could be both a product of the shit you've gone through, and that which is upcoming, and the mythology we've got in this country about youth and carefree somehow being equivalent terms. And as I look around at my very wealthy and privileged campus, with its wealthy and privileged, students... they do seem far younger than you do, because there is less stress on their systems. They're untempered blades. Raw metal.

If you feel like that, I wonder, can the end really be that far away?

I won't get all emotional in blog comments. But dude. No. The end is really not fucking night (to paraphrase 28 Days Later), and I will take it up with the universe if it should happen to think otherwise.

*a rather worthless word, because it doesn't really say anything, but... it's the best you get before I've got another cup of coffee in-system

6:52 PM  
Blogger cameo said...

tell me Milo, are you telling us something here? are you Teddy from JD Salinger's NINE STORIES? for what it's worth, you are not just a soldier boy to me. you are a dear, sweet person with a good head on your shoulders. please post a picture of you two. that way the "memory" is solid and less imaginery.

8:47 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

Thanks for your hilarious post on my blog. Then I come over here in the midst of PMS and you make me get tears in my eyes. Yeah, you're right, you shouldn't have to be thinking about this. But all of us have the Angel of Death on our shoulder at all times. Life is short. It is just that you realize that and most people don't.

3:30 AM  
Blogger antiprincess said...

make sure you put it in writing somewhere so that people will follow your directions.

great post.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Rob said...

One's death is always an interesting subject. Growing up Catholic, it was always interesting to me how people acted so sadly during death. I remember years back when my Grandfather passed, everybody was concerned over the fact that I showed no sad emotions. For me, it wasn't a time to grieve, but a time to celebrate. Knowing what the man went through during his final hours (having difficulty breathing, etc), the thought that the struggling he faced was over came as a relief to me. Who honestly knows what happens after death. Maybe he was reunited with his family. Maybe there isn't life after death. Maybe he was that fly I killed yesterday. In any sense, death should be about the person and not about the family. As much love and respect we all have for our friends and family, we need to have more for ourselves. Celebrate your death how you see fit, and your life will always be remembered as you wish. I do not want people crying at my funeral. I want it to be a celebration! It's the ultimate graduation. I want wine, cheese and crackers. Take the money you would normally spend on a coffin and hire a four-piece string orchestra. Just cremate my ass. Display my photography on the walls. Make it the social event of the year. Sure my parents would be outraged, but this is about me. Your death is about you. Celebrate it as you see fit.

7:21 PM  
Blogger cameo said...

glad to hear that. (teddy) :)

8:08 PM  
Anonymous antiprincess said...

my husband says "when I die, I'm not in the box. I'm with you always."

when my mom died we waited over a year for the memorial service. we just weren't ready. but when we did do it, it was beautiful.

personally, I want them to play "don't fear the reaper" at my memorial service.

1:39 AM  
Blogger cameo said...

hey there! got an e-mail from my brother in iraq. this is part of what it said...
I am actually embedded with an Army unit from Germany right now, most of them get relieved around the end of the year. So that blog that you are reading is probably going to fill the shoes of the guys I'm with right now.
just thought i would share that with you. don't know if he's been visiting you as well. but it's a small world my friend. and as i read your first entry, that fact rang true. i'm in missouri not far from where you trained. check ya later!

5:36 AM  
Blogger Susan Isaacs said...

Milo: came back to visit your blog again. What beautiful writing. Beautiful, soulful, and about real things that matter. Life, death. Death brushed me three times in the last week. A friend's 13 year old daughter lost a lifelong battle to cystic fibrosis. Then another friend wrote me from Chicago that her father died. Complications of years of abuse. Then I finally called my old boss and mentor whom I've been meaning to call. No answer. Looked him up on line. He passed in February. I'll never be able to say the words I wanted to say.

You may do the job of a soldier. but you're a writer, Milo. Keep writing. Stay safe and alive and bring back your stories.


9:40 AM  
Blogger NeverEnough said...

Two years living on the USS Grasp changed my life for sure. And I agree with Susan, YOU are a writer.

5:58 PM  

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