[ by Charles Cameron — Memorial Day, USA ]
1. The tipi:
Inside the night, Afghanistan; in Arghandab, Afghanistan, a small American army base; inside the base beside the chapel a tipi; within the tipi photos of the fallen, cigarettes, an open bible, strong bonds, strong memories.
If you look closely, you will see cigarettes offered in front of the photos of the 21 members of 1-17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who had died here at the time Michael Yon, himself a former Green Beret turned warzone photojournalist, took the series of photos from which these two are taken – and which I urge you to visit this Memorial Day:
Soldiers put cigarettes in front of each photo, though they say that many of the fallen did not smoke.
Kanani Fong, friend of this blog, quotes a Blackfoot warrior’s poem in her comment on Michael Yon’s post:
What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across
the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
I don’t think a church bureaucracy has the insight yet, in these non-smoker times, to call a cigarette a sacrament – yet there’s something sacramental about the friendship that comes with the giving of a cigarette to a fellow soldier, wounded and dying. And to my Lakota friends tobacco is a sacrament: a tobacco offering, ground pushing upward into sky, a prayer.
The buffalo too are sacred to the Lakota: it was White Buffalo Calf Woman who brought them the sacred Pipe.
I ask that you visit Michael Yon’s site, and make a small donation to help him keep up the work he’s doing. Just this month he was in Burma.
The bible is open to Psalm 31, verse 5:
Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.