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.