Thursday, November 5, 2009
tragedy and john bell hood
I awoke one morning nearly three years ago to the sound of voices. These voices seemed much to near for comfort. I rolled out of bed to see a bunch of people walking in and out of the neighbors back door. Since at the time we didn't have neighbors, I grudgingly announced to my wife that we had neighbors moving in. Instead of throwing some grubby clothes on and helping these people move in, I hid behind the window and spied on the happenings, reporting the sightings to Coralee who was, if I remember this correctly, still lying in bed. I was alarmed at what I saw! I counted three people, they were all together, but it didn't appear any of them were, you know, "together." There was this middle-aged mother-type, this bearded tough-looking guy who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, and this little girl who I took to be in the 12 - 16 age range. The most logical explanation I could give Coralee describing the family dynamics was a divorcee cougar, who married this young guy, who are together raising the divorcee's youngest daughter. Weird.
Well I was no where close. The tough-looking guy had actually just married the 12 - 16 year old girl (she was actually 24). The cougar was actually the girl's mom. We became close friends with John and Jessica Riley, and we miss them dearly.
My thoughts are with them today. They are both actually from Fort Hood, Texas the site of a terrible act of violence. Both of John's parents work at Fort Hood, and as of 6:30 p.m. were still locked down on the base. They are both fine, but like many in the immediate community, will need time to come to terms with today's events.
The military installation at Fort Hood was originally built during WWII and carried the name of famed Texan and Civil War Confederate General John Bell Hood, who was a tragic figure in his own day. Hood was the losing general in a number of battles. He had his arm nearly blown off at Gettysburg, recovered, then had his leg blown off months later. Having dabbled in Civil War history during my master's thesis, I've come across a few statements that strike me as being somber reminders of the frailties of life and the honor that comes from magnifying one's military duty. But perhaps none of the quotes are as direct as the one attributed to General Hood, which I feel is a proper tribute to those who died today.
The quote comes during the aftermath of one of the bloodiest battles from the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. During the battle, Hood commanded the left section of the Confederate army and, in a moment of desperation, sent his troops into battle against an unsuspecting but vastly larger Union army commanded by McClellan and Hooker. Hood and his men engaged the Union soldiers in bloody combat for hours in the "Cornfield," but in the end with no victory in immediate sight, Hood and what was left of his army retreated back to the safety of the trees. Later that night, while inspecting the remnants of the battered Confederate Army, General Lee turned to Hood and asked him, "Great God, General Hood, where is your splendid division?" Hood replied, "They are lying upon the field where you sent them, sir."
If there is a God who is greater than us, and yes I do believe there is, at times it may be difficult to come to terms with tragedy especially when the victims are innocent. The struggle becomes believing that there is a purpose in death, perhaps not immediately recognizable, but nevertheless there, which will eventually be understood. There is a sense of faith for greater things yet to come in Hood's statement that we too can embrace, "They are lying upon the field where you sent them, sir."