Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Two For the Road

*Click on images to enlarge

All good things must come to an end. This sojourn to Iraq is quickly drawing to a close and Friday night I'll start my return trip to the land of the big PX. For a final time an ASR number will be scrawled on the back of my left hand. In the darkness one last "seabag drag", weighted down with ALL my gear, into the back of a waiting helo. The dark expanse of Iraq will glide below us. Into memory will fade golden fragments of light spilling out from windows and doorways of Iraqi homes. A strand of silvery beads coiling across the landscape marking the midnight path of a coalition convoy will disappear like a wisp of smoke. I suspect I'll feel both drawn home and wanting to stay. I wonder if there is word for this, a word like bittersweet; a word that captures the tension of opposites. I've just lived five months in a world populated by real men and women engaged in what the philosopher and historian Victor Davis Hanson calls "muscular idealism". Individuals who know what Stanley Crawford, the author of A Garlic Testament meant by the "pound weight of the real at ground level". Something in me is wary of the unreality that awaits me back home. I will walk the streets of my beautiful little Virgina river town in the quiet of an early spring evening to my favorite coffee shop unarmed. There won't be the staccato sound of distant gunfire, or the deafening crack of a cannon followed by the sound of an artillery round splitting the air with the intensity of a raging locomotive. I'll make a visit to the mall to replace my scratched up spectacles and have no urgent concerns about the crowds of civilians or the cars and pick-up trucks driving where ever they like. In the mall and at the coffee shop there will be conversations about who said what to who, plans for the weekend, job prospects, complaints about the boss and a plethora of subjects that I fear will strike me as inconsequential and banal. Will I jump at the sound of a car backfiring or a door slamming? Will I have to suppress the urge to tell some twenty-something-college student with his hat on sideways smoking a clove cigarette to please stop whinning about Econ 101? Will I hear the far keening of the pipes? I imagine I will.

Here are two artworks for the road. A nameless Marine taking a knee looks out across the broad expanse of Iraq. The buffer zone between every single one of us and the terrorists starts about two hundred yards in front of him. The terrorist knows what a good shot he is and keeps a wary distance. But more than that, they know this young American, barely out of high school, given the chance, will kill him at any distance surely as God made little green apples. They know they are up against the greatest warriors on the planet. These are the civilized world's name takers and heartbreakers. Somewhere this kid from your hometown learned to love his country and his brother Marines more than himself. Somehow this kid from your son's 2nd grade class decided to act on the belief that there are some things bigger than ones self, ideas that both require and are worthy of his blood and treasure. This young man from down the street who delivered your morning paper and had a crush on your daughter knows who he's willing to die for, YOU. Three I knew did just that, LCpl Deeds of Mississippi, Cpl Rogers of Oklahoma and Lt McGlothlin of Virginia. Their blood, their last full measure is now mixed forever with the soil of Iraq. They lived and breathed a life where words like courage, honor and country were not strangers in town. The other is a portrait of Lance Corporal Lucas Turchich. It's based on a photo I took of him during a fifteen minute pause sandwiched between assaults in Husayba, Iraq. This is one of the "rough men" willing to do violence on your behalf. Sleep well. He's out there on watch tonight.

I'll be making more posts in the near future. After a couple weeks of leave with my daughter it'll be into the studio and the creation of finished watercolors and paintings. There is also a whole series of photo "abstractions" that I plan on posting. Iraq was visually rich in wonderfully textured and distressed surfaces and objects. Thanks to all of you who've visited me over the past five months. Semper Fi.

You can have your Army khakis, you can have your Navy blues
But I’ve a different fighting man to introduce to you
His uniform is different than any you’ve ever seen
The Germans called us devildogs, our real name is Marine

We were born on Parris Island, the land that God forgot
The sand was 18 inches deep, the sun was blazing hot
We get up every morning way before the sun
And run a hundred miles or more before the day is done

Over a million have come and gone who’ve called themselves Marine
We live by the motto “Semper fi”, let me tell you what it means
Always faithful to our nation, and faithful to the Lord
But first of all we’re faithful to our comrades in the Corps

We died on the beach at Guadalcanal and we died in Vietnam
We died in the mud at Belleau Wood and we died in Lebanon
And when we got to heaven Saint Peter we did tell
Another Marine reporting sir, I’ve served my time in hell

*Traditional marching chant from Marine Corps Boot Camp

The Things They Live By

I've included a link below to a site where there's a music video called "On My Watch Tonight". It's written and performed by a Marine, Mike Corrado. I hope you check it out. Oh, and have box of tissues handy.



Anonymous said...

Great effect of light in the top picture, really beautiful. Thanks for conveying to us what you see, it is so enlightening. Safe journey. V. Schroeder

Turtle Jones said...

Beutiful work. Just astounding...

Beth* A. said...

WO1 Mike D Fay:

There aren't enough good ways to say it, but it's meant from the heart - Thank you SO much for letting us walk parts of this Journey with you! I will never forget this experience. From very little you found beauty, created beauty, shared it with us.

On some blog somewhere, coming back was described a little bit like having Stockholme Syndrome! It went on to say, however, that such feelings fade into memory rather quickly because home, family, cannot be displaced in the human heart.

Safe journey home to YOU, and have a fantastic time with your family on vacation - you so deserve it!

P.S.Please drop a quick word or two when you are safely stateside. (That would be much appreciated.) You could begin to decompress, and we could all breathe a sigh of relief. ;-)
God bless you, and ALL our troops.

Beverly said...

Thank you for your thoughts. I've just found your blog and will be reading your experiences. Godspeed.

Anonymous said...

Words cannot express the appreciation and thanks this Marine mother has for you and your work.
You somehow helped us live through the most difficult days of our son's lives and showed us the beauty of the American spirit through your amazing art and words.
May your journey home be safe.
My prayers continue for you and your family as you come back home to the world of everyday America.
Our son's are returning home soon.
It would be so wonderful if you could be there to welcome them back also. They give you very high praise Sir!
Please keep in touch so that we can keep up with you and your beautiful work.
God Bless you and keep you.
Becky from Colorado

Leslie said...

Hey Mike! That is my son's name, who is one of the "kids" you are referring to. He is stationed at Ft. Lewis, on the Stryker team. Just graduated Basic a yr. ago Dec.

Read your post this morning, and am touched. Your art is very special, you are very talented. I pray that your reunion with your family is wonderful. Thank you for posting,and for serving us. I salute you!

The Woodlands, TX

Bag Blog said...

Here at home, we have mixed feelings too. We become a part of your life while reading your blog and seeing your art. We expect it to be there for us to read daily. We feel like we know you. Although we want you home safe, we will miss your thoughts and words on Iraq. I am glad you are planning on showing us more art - it will wean us off slowly. I am glad you are coming home - be safe.

PaleoMedic said...

Your words about coming home bring to mind my brother who has come home from Iraq, not once but twice. He was a paratrooper in the 82nd during the initial assault, and just returned from a longer deployment with a National Guard infantry brigade. To say he is changed is a gross understatement, but he seems to glide through the minor travails of civilian life with an easy, good-natured grace that can come only from someone who has seen the front porch of hell.

God bless you, and all the Marines and Soldiers still fighting the good fight.

Anonymous said...

I love this picture-I actually "got it" even before I read the description of how it could be any one of our Marines.
We have appreciated seeing so much work from Steel Curtain and subsequent times for the 2/1.
What a gift for us that you were there to bring it to life for the families back home. I know my Marine will enjoy reading your blog when he returns (very soon!)

Samantha West said...

Enjoy your leave and thank you for your beautiful perspective.


Papa Ray said...

Thanks Marine for your outstanding work and your devotion to your Marines and the Marine Corp.

It will stand you in good stead all your life.

Looking forward to hearing from you when you get back to "The World".

Papa Ray
West Texas

Carol said...


Lovely, poignant post like every one you've shared with us. I wish you peace and contentment in the next leg of your "journey" for you surely deserve it.

Travel safe.


chatrbx said...

I have enjoyed your posts,drawings and photos and just wish I would have found you sooner.

Safe journey home and thank you for sharing with us.

Lil Toni said...

Just so ya know, I stop by more than you might think. I just don't always comment. Some things remain the same...your incredible talent is one such thing.
Safe journey, Mike and God bless ya.

diana said...

Have enjoyed your art and your words very much. Thankyou for taking the time to share with us in Texas. Have a safe journey, you will be missed, but I am sure that your family will be overjoyed to see you safe and sound. If you are up to it, maybe you could give us one last post letting us know that you got home safe and sound.

CJ said...

WO1 Fay--Why is it that I don't find your site until you are on your way home?....=( But already I find myself captivated. I've been digging into the archives! =)Your pictures say so much, so eloquently. Thank you for telling this story for us. I hope you get home safely to your family. And I hope you do publish a book. I know I'd be in line for a copy!!

Cheryl said...

Looks like a lot of people are going to miss your writings and your art. God bless you and keep you. Welcome home!!

Cobalt Blue said...

Mr. Fay--I admire your work.
I have taken the liberty of copying one of your images on my blog http://puregumspirits.blogspot.com in order to publicize in my own small way your work. Please let me know if this is a problem.

Keep it up. Will you have a show when you come back to the States?

whit said...

Thanks, Fay. Glad you're home.

It's been a treat to visit your blog.