Recently while on location locally I got in trouble for taking the above image of a tired display of the American Flag, the colorful banner of our Nationalism. The old creepy owner seemed unimpressed with my logical reasons for photographing 'his' flag. Well old man, I am so sorry to offend you, it was purely intended.
Without knowing Lance Corporal Noah Miles Pier I felt completely connected to his combat action death on February 16, 2010 in Marjah Afghanistan. Pier served as an infantryman with line Battalion 1/3 of the 3rd Marine Division out of Hawaii and his body returned home to his family in Charlotte yesterday. A while back I read the words of Chesty Puller who once told the U.S. Congress that the only ones who really understood the tragedy of war were the ones on the ground who were actually participating in it. Pier understood, it was obvious in his art work displayed on an easel a few feet from where his American Flag draped coffin sat silently radiating a pulsating heat from the center outward. There was no mistaking the energy of violent death.
Noah Pier's original art work was a colorful twist of confusion highlighted by movement in still imagery with a few written words that jumped out at me: Crazy, Help Me, Lord-Sin.
Last night I waited in the long line of family, friends, strangers and those wanting to take the look inside of themselves and the eyes of those who survived Noah. My base layer T was the last semi serviceable one that I own from my Marine experience and the olive drab rigger's belt holding up my four dollar linen pants was the one and very same that I wore 20 years ago in the belt loops of my cammies. The line started in the Chapel of the Funeral Home, wrapped around its wall out the door, down the hall, across the foyer and into the little room where Pier's many brothers, sisters, grandmother, fiance and parents sat or stood thanking people for their support. When it was my turn to step into that room I held the hand of Pier's aunt with both of mine and looked into her hurt eyes. I spoke briefly about why I was there and moved on down the line through all of his immediate kin that led me to his fiance and parents. Eye contact and physical hand transfer turned into an unexpected hug grab by one of his sisters when I explained to her why I was unfortunately standing before her expressing my sorrow for her loss. She held onto me and cried, I did my best to remain emotionally in check with a straight back and strong hold in return to her. Her small frame felt hollow against mine as she shook with a low vibration of pain.
I moved on down the line, held out my hands for his mom and dad all the while keeping their eyes with mine, I told them why I was saddened to be there. They thanked me from deep in their hearts then I stepped into the little parlor where Pier's flag draped casket sat being illuminated by over head lights and was guarded by two silent Marines at attention in the 'Dress Blues'. I stepped up to it as if I were being pulled by the same negative force that had destroyed the life that now sat empty in front of me. There was a rhythmic, almost pulsating heat coming from under the flag. Everyone there must have felt it even though not everyone understood what it was they were feeling. After some minutes went by I turned around and saw two easels, one with his art mentioned above and the other held two photos of Pier. The top image of him was a happy looking civilian fellow, free. The second image below the first was of LCPL Pier in full Combat kit on a sloping sparsely green hill under even taller mountains in the distance somewhere in Afghanistan. In that image a young Afghan boy tending to his family's sheep was smiling a few meters from Pier on up the slope.
I left with a friend and out in the car lot we talked about the reality check we had just experienced and received openly with awareness. A strange irony came over me. Because of the U.S. presence in the not so far away Middle East I can afford the 2.70$ a gallon to get to Pier's visitation. If the U.S. was not there propping up the House of Saud and gas flow on the Arabian Peninsula our fuel costs would be so high that oil could go to 500$ a barrel. At that point I would not be able to afford to drive to the funeral home but there would be no need to because Pier would be alive, not dead in the name of it all. There are so many things I feel like I want to say but I am not sure if I am completely ready to be able to communicate those thoughts to you my lovely audience masking yourself as my sounding board.
*Interesting side Note. "How's the synchro?", someone once asked me. Well let me tell you. When I came home last night I did a 'google search' on the death of Noah Pier and stumbled across a blog that broke the story of Pier's death last week. Cedar Posts and Barbwire Fences posted this story on Wednesday February 17, 2010. As I scanned through the layout of this site I was very surprised to see my Rock and Roll Stop the Traffic linked on the author's side bar. Cedar Post, I thank you for the considerate link and will reciprocate the gesture in the near future. Adding to the synchro, I discovered in the Cedar Posts' article that the Executive Officer of 3rdBN-6th Marines is Major Billy Moore.