Sunday, February 14, 2010

Band of Brothers.

I’ve often said that I can’t imagine a world where I would be bored, or have nothing to do. It seems to me that the world is a most interesting place. I know, that I make it sound like I drink a lot, but I don’t. I never drink in the middle of the day, and I never have more than one drink in the evening, that is if I can remember to have one. I can’t stand the thought that something interesting might happen, and I would be out of it. I would never even try Marijuana. Not even after having heard the hoard sing the praises of the glorious weed. I just don’t think that it could improve me in any way.

What would happen if a 747 aircraft had to make an emergency landing on the freeway? There I would be, stuck at home, because I would not be allowed to respond as a medical first responder if I was drunk. I have a friend who says; “I don’t want you to have a disaster, but if you do, I want to be prepared, and I want to be there to help you.” I fully understand that thought, and I would like to keep myself prepared, for the same reasons.

There is a real feeling of accomplishment to be part of a team that works well together and accomplishes the things that need to be accomplished. There is a feeling among first responders that can only be described as “esprit de corps”. We work well together, we train together, and accomplish together. Seldom does political influences enter our thoughts.

I try to avoid literary offshoots into big words and vague concepts, but sometimes the place that you find yourself allows no other descriptions. I read a lot, and I try to understand the things that I read. I try to keep an open mind and be objective. Seldom do I make a stand on any controversial issue. I’ve been warned that “being in the middle of the road will only get you run over”, but most times I can clearly see that there is more than one side to any issue. As I said, I read a lot, sometimes I think that I read, and think about things, too much. I often feel that I have understanding of things that others fail to even look at, or consider.

Years ago, I decided that I would see if I could understand William Shakespeare. There seemed to be a consensus amongst well-read people that he was one of the greatest writers that ever lived. So, I decided that I would read a few lines and try to understand them. Sometimes I would spend an hour trying to understand a single paragraph. Fortunately, there is a lot of things on the Internet to help you understand what he was saying. I read a lot of foolish girlie poems that didn’t impress me much, but soon I started to see the humor that he could stir in even the most silly moment. I started reading the more manly-man stuff, and more of what he had to say really resonated with the way that I think.

Firefighters often refer to themselves as “brothers” I thought that it had something to do with religion, but I later found out that it was from Shakespeare’s King Henry the fifth, so I became particularly interested in the St. Crispen’s Day Speech. I started with; “We few, We happy few, We band of brothers”. Okay, at least I knew where the expression came from, but I was still confused as to why they would call themselves “Brothers”. I went on the read the next part; “For he to-day that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother”. Whoa... Blood? Whatever they were doing together must have been important, shedding blood over anything sounds like serious commitment. I thought a lot about that. So, I started at the top of the Saint Crispen's Day Speech. It starts with;

WESTMORELAND to King Henry V. “O that we now had here
    But one ten thousand of those men in England
    That do no work to-day!”

I read that to mean that Westmoreland thought that they needed a LOT of help.

The King had taken his troops across the English Channel into France, with the goal of taking back the land that the French had taken from England. The King and his troops had landed on shore, tired and seasick, many had dysentery. The troops were in no frame of mind, or body, to do battle. The English were greatly outnumbered, and were going to have to fight battle-ready French troops. If King Henry V stood any chance at all, he would have to stir the emotions of his troops to be willing to fight valiantly and successfully.

He mounted a rock in front of his troops and he said;

“What's he that wishes so?
    My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
    If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
    Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
    It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
    Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
    But if it be a sin to covet honour,
    I am the most offending soul alive.”

Now, if you take that apart and put it back together, it is a very good start to a rousing speech. What he said is simply:

“We may die here, if we are to die, let's get on with it. But, if we do this battle and live, we will have all of the glory for ourselves.

The fewer to share our glory, the more glorious our deed will become. Who would wish for more men?

I don't wish for wealth in the form of gold. Nor do I care who eats at my expense, I don't care who wears the clothes that I buy. Such outward things mean nothing too me.

But, if it is a sin to seek honor. I am the most sinful soul alive.”

Pretty good start, don't you think? Then he continues:

“No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
    God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
    As one man more methinks would share from me
    For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
    Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
    We would not die in that man's company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.

The King goes on to make his point that he doesn't wish to share the honor with those who feared to join in the battle.

He says that the men that didn't have the courage to join in the fight should not be allowed to share in their glory.

He goes one to say, if there is any still any among them that doesn't want to fight this battle, to say so now, and he will by sent away, and that the King will even pay the expense for him to leave.

He is adamant that the person that fears to die amongst them, fighting for the same cause, shall not have the honor of fighting with such brave men.

“This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.”

Crispian's day is a similar holiday to our Thanksgiving, which has nothing to do with the fight, but it will become an anniversary to remember the fight that they had there in France.

He that makes it safely through the fight, and gets home again, will be proud of what they did in France. And they will peel back their sleeves and proudly display their scars.

“Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he'll remember, with advantages,
    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words-
    Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.”

Old men forget, and eventually all things will be forgotten, but while we still remember, we will remember proudly that we fought and won the battle on Saint Crispins Day. All the names of the valiant soldiers will be remembered and named aloud. Every man shall teach his son, and it should be remembered until the end of the world, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he, today, that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother.

He closes with: Those that didn't fight with us, will think of themselves as cursed for not fighting the honorable fight, and indeed, will not be able to think of themselves as men.

It almost makes you want to be part of something glorious doesn't it? As I look back on my career as a firefighter, because I kept myself trained and sober, I have been to most all of the big events in the Garberville Redway area. It hasn't always been fun. But, I've been to some pretty amazing happenings. Happenings too numerous to remember. Some of the highlights are: I was at the Garberville Fire Hall/ Mateel Community Center/ Blue Star gas plant fire. (all one fire). I was at the Southern Humboldt Building Service/Branding Iron Bar fire. I was at the Trees Restaurant/Branding Iron Bar fire. (Yes the Branding Iron burned twice) I was at the One Log House fire. I was at the major propane leak in Redway. I've been to many plane crashes, and many more car crashes. I've been part of a team that has saved many lives and much property.

It's very rewarding to have the younger firefighters ask me about the “big ones”. We all sit around and play “what if”. Like in, “what would you do if you were the only one on the scene of a fire, and you had to make the decision to enter the fire alone? What would you do? There is no one pat-answer. So, there is the rule book, and there is reality. Sometimes nothing you can do is really right. Usually you have your “brothers" to help you make those decisions.” My life has been saved more than once by “my brothers” so a person forms a pretty close bond in the “Band of Brothers”.

But, it is always fun to sit around the fire pit at the Redway Fire Department Barbecue, our own little Saint Crispens Day, strip our sleeves, show our scars, and remember the “big ones” that we have been to.

Reading Shakespeare has helped me understand some of the feelings that people that work closely together in a serious manner have for each other. Knowing the bond that the firefighters have formed for each other also helps me to understand the bond that soldiers form for each other. I know in my heart that the soldiers that work together become "Brothers" even moreso than their own true brothers. The bond that they form helps them see through "the fog of war". (I went on here for a while, but decided to back out of it. I think that you can appreciate our soldiers in your own fashion, without my help.)

Anyway, I hope that some of you will pick out some great literary work and try to understand a little bit of it. Most of it didn't become great for no reason. It can be interesting. Have somebody recommend some good stuff for you. There is still a lot of winter left, and it will help pass the time......


Aunt Janet said...

Gotta love Shakespeare! I had my son and another kid read Macbeth when they were 12 years old. They complained a bit, but they both quote Macbeth lines to this day. (they are in their thirties today. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that neither of them has read any other Shakespeare. One of them is a math professor, and the other is a motorcycle mechanic. Neither is into liturature.
I also taught Chinese language to 6th graders. One of the kids complained about that to his parents. The parents didn't get why I would be teaching them Chinese, until I mentioned that about half the people in the world speak Chinese. One of those now-thirty y/olders still greets me in Chinese now and then.
You just never know when Shakespeare or Chinese language is going to come in handy.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Chinese could become a required course in school when China calls in our debt and we can't pay it.

Anonymous said...

Dang Ernie, sometimes you get long winded.


spyrock said...

every year around the spring equanox. the firemen would have their father son picnic. over the years, grandsons were invited too. they always had a great barbeque. huge steaks, great portuguese beans, plenty of beer for the older ones.
there were three contests, fishing, horseshoes, and shooting skeet. the winner of each competition would get a bottle of jack. my dad and i finally won the horseshoe competition when he was 80 years old. which meant that i had to have had a great day throwing shoes.
of course, shooting skeet was a real treat for most boys who came out who had never shot a gun before.
i don't know about the british army but that volunteer fire department was by far the tightest brotherhood i have ever seen in my life. they did a lot for the community besides fight fires and save lives. they were fathers too.
now that we have a private fire department with limited volunteer participation, the community lacks that strong safety net that used to exist for so many years.
so enjoy your fire department while you can.

Kym said...

Shaking the Shakespeare stick makes me want to join in. How about Patience unmoved, no marvel though she pause. They can be meek which have no other cause...

I enjoyed how you related the soldier part of the Crispin Day speech with firefighters. There is that moment with someone where you both look at each other and say, "you too?" And you are bonded. Crispin Day captures that so well.

Rose said...

I’ve often said that I can’t imagine a world where I would be bored, or have nothing to do. It seems to me that the world is a most interesting place.