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3355Re: [TalkAntietam] Added Upon/New Member

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  • Mark Holt
    Mar 7, 2007
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      To Thomas Klemons and All,

      Actually, I was quite sheltered from action during the First Gulf War. My company was in Khobar Towers, Daharan when the war started. The SCUD alerts seemed at the time to be merely nuisance pretexts for those lording it over us to get us up in the night and jack us around. Eventually even they got tired of it and just had us put on our masks and go back to sleep. Our duty station when we could get there was in the Seventh Corps support area about 35 miles south of the enemy line far away to the west. I never moved from the spot hardly at all until it was time for the company to start toward home.

      Before the overland invasion on February 24, 1991, we could see flashes on the northern horizon at night. One quiet night just after we had arrived in the desert and before the big generator arrived and was started, we heard a B-52 raid on the line. We could hear a far distant "boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.... and noticed in the light of my candle some mess kits that were hanging on nails at the top of the side posts of our GP Medium tent were rattling. Someone asked me if it were guns. I said, "No, even the biggest guns are not that loud from such a long distance. The rythm is too slow and regular for them to be guns anyway. Those are thousand-pounders from a B52." Then, after a pause, I said, "Can you imagine what it must be like to be in the target area?" No one wanted to think about it.

      Most Gulf War battlefields are fiendishly toxic with depleted uranium. They can also be mined and/or boobytrapped in addition to having stench and flies. I was never under any tempation to go near one and never had the opportunity anyway. Also, unbeknownst to me until years after the Gulf War, the enemy left behind weaponized mycoplasmas in a freeze-dried medium in areas that he retreated from. The SCUDS also carried these agents. See http://www.gulfwarvets.com and click "mycoplasmas." Most of the basis for the "Gulf War Syndrome" is actually biological and not much chemical. It is a long and complicated story and very much off-subject.

      My impression of the Sharpsburg Battlefield was that it was, as of late June, 1991, a very pretty place. I spent all day there from early in the morning until past dark and walked through all of it. Like at Gettysburg and Harpers Ferry, I was very positively impressed with the way that the National Park Service kept the place maintained and guided visitors through. I detected no Political Correctness or political bias. I had had some negative experiences in previous years with the Park Service in the West. Some of the Rangers I encountered previously seemed to have the attitude that they were in the business of hassling people. Then too I witnessed a spectacle of bureaucratic stupidity/Orwellian Doublethink at Yellowstone in 1985 that was so very extreme that I hesitate to describe it in apprehension that I would not be believed. I saw none of that at National Historical Sites although I did hear from a family that it had been awakened in the middle of the night
      and hassled by a Ranger at the Shenandoah National Park for having left a bag of cookies on the picnic table. Everyone whom I had encountered on my 1991 trip was very well-behaved.

      And one more thing about the field at Sharpsburg: I once read in The Army Trainer magazine, published officially by the US Army, that if one would sneak in with his bedroll shortly after dark of a September 17, and lay down into the high weeds for the night, he will soon be able to hear the spectral moans of the wounded from the battle. I do not know that the statement is true, but neither do I know that it is not.

      While camped in Maryland, I bought from the KOA store a paperback copy of A Landscape Turned Red by Stephen W. Sears. I read it all during the trip during pleasant evenings in my pup tent. It is the complete story of the Sharpsburg/Antietam campaign.

      One place that I had camped for a couple of nights was on the Virginia-side heights above Harpers Ferry. Shallow remains of trenches remain among the campsites at the KOA. I spent an entire day in the town and also took in the "Ghost Tour" at night. Of all the hard luck towns I have ever seen in my life, that one must be the most unlucky.

      The Harpers Ferry and Kennedy Farm visits inspired me to find at the Renton Library and read two biographies of old John Brown shortly after moving into Renton late in July. There was far more to his life than the extremism and madness that dominated his last years. He was actually a very complex and interesting person. I read the books when I was in middle age and was looking toward the question of what manner of an old man would I become.

      Years later, I learned from someone I had made contact with through my job that, when she was young during the Great Depression, she worked in the State Capitol Building in Topeka, Kansas. She told of a man whom she would see there day after day painting a huge mural on a wall in front of an elevator. Every day when she went to work, the elevator door would open to her the scarey image of old John Brown with his eyes seeming to pierce through her. In one of his hands was an open Bible and in the other was a Sharps rifle. Dead men were at his feet, and behind him two armies squared off. One carried the US national flag, and the other carried the Confederate Battle Flag. In the background was a refugee wagon train and fire and smoke and the whirlwind.

      On the strength of her story, I wrote to the receptionist at the State Capitol Building to ask if it were possible for me to acquire a print of the mural. I received a letter back that I could order one from her for $21 and some cents. So, I did. My dear wife Iris said that it is not a peaceful picture (it isn't) but that I could put it in the computer room which is sort of my area of the house. I can look up at it from where I sit now.

      Since the coming home from work last Friday night, I have been sick with influenza. I went straight to bed and was so miserable that I stayed there continuously except to urinate until Sunday at noon. I thought that I would make it back to work today, but I still have a nagging cough that I do not think that my callers or the people with whom I work want to hear. I hope to be able to make it tomorrow.

      Thomas Clemens <clemenst@...> wrote:
      Hi Quenton and thank you for that heartfelt message. I think many of us "feel" the war as well as read about it. Battlefields of any sort are special places, and I think many of us afree on that point too. As a veteran who has seen modern battlefields you have an additional and perhaps deeper understanding of the horror or war in general and can empathize with the savagery of Civil War combat. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and seeing your participation in this group.

      Thomas G. Clemens D.A.
      Professor of History
      Hagerstown Community College

      >>> Mark Holt <que182001@...> 03/07/07 12:30 AM >>>

      To All:

      I am Quentin Holt of Renton, Washington State. I have been an amateur historian since deep into my childhood, and I am now 58 years old. I am well-read and widely traveled and have a lifelong penchant for thinking for myself. I am a male-type person and have never been into emotional breakdowns or serious failures to function. I was nearly a dozen years between the National Guard and the Army Reserve. I am a graduate of the Infantry School at Fort Benning.

      In November of 1990, my Army Reserve unit, the 889th Supply and Service Company, Great Falls, Montana was mobilized for active duty in Desert Shield. When the company was demobilized from Desert Storm six months later, I was without military responsibilities for two and a half months, without a civilian job, and without an address. What I did have was a lot of freedom, free time, and long green. It was the perfect combination to visit some places that I had wanted to visit all my life but lacked either the time or the money or both.

      One of those places was Sharpsburg. Others were the Smithsonian, Gettysburg, Crampton's Gap, Harper's Ferry, The Kennedy Farm, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Guiney Station, and Ford's Theater. Others still were a lady in New Jersey, whom I had met in Arabia, and the beach at Sandy Hook. I was single then.

      When I visited the blood-soaked, ghost-haunted battlefields of the War, I felt like I was like most other tourists there except that I may have been more knowledgeable about the history of the War and that I was alone in my visits. Like most any caring and decent person, I was also saddened by the ways that Americans used to regard and treat one another, but it did not go beyond the normal at the time.

      After about a month, I finished my road trip, returned to Great Falls, Montana, stayed there a weekend to recover from a cold, and then moved to where I am now. Following that, I got a job like the one that I had trained for in Montana but could not get there, joined a new Army Reserve Unit, got a better job, and acquired a wife (my first and the one that I have now).

      On my visits to the battlefields, particularly The Wilderness and Harper's Ferry but all of them more or less, I felt a heaviness that I cannot describe and have never felt anywhere else. Some element of what is there has seemingly penetrated my being and has made me different. Perhaps it is for the better, but I am certainly not more comfortable.

      Before the trip, my thoughts about the War were that it was (1) not God's judgment on America for anything but only the direct result of people who wanted it to happen and what they did to make it happen; (2) horrible, cruel, tragic, and awful beyond comprehension; (3) pseudo-justified by lies and vicious propaganda; (4) by the general public, even more misunderstood now than then; (5) started by the National Government and (6) that as an ordinary, freedom-loving American, I lost when the federal invasion was completed and started to lose even when it began. The War was the epoch when the National Government started to transform exponentially from what it was meant to be by the Founding Fathers into what it is now.

      After the trip, the things that I had earlier thought about the War were and are now things that I feel deeply on an an emotional level. It seems especially that some relatively tiny measure of the terror, sadness, pain, and disgust that permeated the atmosphere at Sharpsburg on and after September 17, 1862 and the other battlefields just sort of attached itself to my soul like a cockle burr might attach to the bottom of my pants. Unlike something physical, I cannot pull it out. Time has not lessened the effect of it.

      It is not like someone might feel when he sits through a sad movie or hears a sad story. In those cases, the listener thinks through the story, empathizes with one or more of the characters, and then feels the pain that they think that they would feel if they were in the situation in real life. It is more like the pain was poured directly from one bucket into another, or more proportionately, like my bucket was added to directly by a spigot attached to the bottom of Grand Coulee Dam. I feel it now. My eyes pour tears as I type this. I feel it when I hear crap idolizing President Lincoln or the other principal figures who decided to instigate the War or some blasphemous song of the period written to promote the armed invasion of the South.

      At work I receive calls all day from former hospital patients and their family members about their accounts. I did all right, considering the complexity of it all and my newness on the job, until my first call last Friday. The man responsible for the $400-some debt told me that his wife had died ten months ago. Normally, I would just verbally express my regret and otherwise say and do what I am required by my employer to say and do and then would just casually go onto the next call. However, this time I could directly feel the man's emotional pain (and it was and is very considerable). It just poured right into me immediately like it was being dumped from one bucket into another. It did not come by empathizing with him or consciously thinking about how he must feel. It did not generate within me at all. It was his pain generated within him and transmitted telepathically into me just as easily and quickly and completely as his voice was being transmitted into my
      earpiece. I could hardly function for the next call, and my supervisor, seeing me from a distance, stopped by to ask what was wrong. It was hard to explain, and I might have come off looking like a quiet mental case on the edge of not functioning on the job.

      All of this brings me to the point of my joining this group and writing this post. Do I need to find some way (can't imagine how) to just straighten up and get over it, or are there any of you who are going through or went through anything like this because of your visits to such places as Sharpsburg?

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