CSO Perspectives (Pro) 5.27.24
Ep 5571 | 5.27.24

Memorial Day special.


Rick Howard: Not to be confused with Veterans Day, a holiday that celebrates American military personnel, Memorial Day honors the fallen soldier. As author Tamra Bolton says, quote, "This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn't come home. This is not Veterans Day. It's not a celebration. It is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom." End quote. Today here at N2K CyberWire we commemorate Memorial Day. [ Music ] My name is Rick Howard and I'm broadcasting from the N2K CyberWire's secret sanctum sanctorum studios located underwater somewhere along the Patapsco River near Baltimore Harbor, Maryland in the good old US of A. And you're listening to CSO perspectives, my podcast about the ideas, strategies, and technologies that senior security executives wrestle with on a daily basis. Memorial Day began almost immediately after the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865, although we didn't start calling it that for another 100 years. When the confederate army of northern Virginia surrendered to General Grant at the Appomattox courthouse in south central Virginia, over 600,000 soldiers had perished because of the conduct of that war both from the confederate and from the union sides. At least 2% of the American population at the time. More lives lost than any conflict in U.S history. Just a month after the south surrendered, thousands of freed black Americans in the ruined city of Charleston, South Carolina commemorated a mass grave of union soldiers buried in an abandoned race course. 3,000 schoolchildren carrying roses and hundreds of women carrying flower baskets [inaudible 00:02:33] and crosses sang the old union army marching song "John Brown's Body" which is more famously known today as the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." By May the next year, 1866, citizens of the city of Waterloo, New York decorated their streets with flags at half staff draped with evergreens and mourning black. 100 years later the U.S federal government declared this commemoration as the official first Memorial Day. That same year, though, in Columbus, Mississippi, women placed flowers on the graves of both confederate and union soldiers. Two years later, May 1868, General John A Logan, the commander in chief of the grand army of the republic, a veteran of eight major Civil War campaigns, established a national holiday when he signed a general order number 11 saying, quote, "Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to erase in chains and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms." According to the USO, the United Service Organizations, over 5,000 first ever national decoration day participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 union and confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. By the late 1800s cities and communities across the United States began to observe the day and several states declared it a legal holiday. According to the "New York Times," most referred to the day as decoration day. But as the country got involved in other wars like the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, Americans began referring to the observance as Memorial Day. Not just to remember Civil War deaths, but to honor the American fallen from all wars. In 1967 Congress formally changed decoration day to Memorial Day and in 1971 decreed that the holiday would land on the last Monday of May to ensure a three day holiday for federal workers. Today American citizens don't really acknowledge the distinction between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Most appreciate the two American three day weekends, official national holidays, by attending parades, firing up the backyard grill for burgers and hot dogs, and maybe tipping their baseball caps to the veterans in the vicinity. And this is all well and good. But for me it's one thing to be a veteran of the U.S armed forces, a true and noble calling for which I'm proud to have followed. It's quite another, though, to lay down your life in the name of a bigger idea, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And that to secure these rights men and women must be ready to stand in the breach to protect them. I'm reminded of President Franklin D Roosevelt's bill of rights proclamation in 1941. Quote. "Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them." Or Winston Churchill's speech on the BBC about his citizens response to the Battle of Britain in World War II. Quote. "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Winston Churchill: The great air battle with convenient progress over this island for the last few weeks has recently attained a high intensity. It is too soon to attempt to assign limits either to its scale or to its duration. We must certainly expect that greater efforts will be made by the enemy than any he has put forth. The gratitude of every home in our island, in our empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict with much is owed by so many can so few.

Rick Howard: Or the hot take from the famous American general George S Patton in 1945. Quote. "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men and women lived." In President Lincoln's condolence letter to Mrs Bixby in Boston he succinctly expressed the nation's thoughts about our nation's fallen sons and daughters. This is a dramatization of the reading of the letter by the army's chief of staff General George C Marshall played by the actor Harve Presnell in the movie "Saving Private Ryan."

Harve Presnell: I have a letter here written a long time ago to a Mrs Bixby in Boston. So bear with me. Dear Madame, I've been shown in the files of the war department a statement of the agitant general of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless it must be any words of mine that would attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found and the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our heavenly father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved lost. The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. Yours very sincerely and respectfully, Abraham Lincoln. [ Music ]

Rick Howard: When I was still in the U.S army in the later part of my career, this is early 2000s, I was stationed at the Pentagon. My unit visited Arlington cemetery, the cemetery where the country buries its veterans. And I was sufficiently moved by the experience that I wrote an essay about it. It's called "Reborn at Arlington." And you can find it in total on the N2K website. A couple of years ago with the help of Elliott Peltzman, the N2K executive director of sound and vision, we dramatized the essay. So for this Memorial Day we're rebroadcasting that show. As President Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 1500 U.S army soldiers stood on the misty parade field at Fort Myer, Virginia waiting for the sun to rise. The leadership had scheduled another morale building yet mandated fun run where once a quarter the entire unit comes together to do PT, physical training, in a show of esprit de corps and unit cohesion. Since we were all stationed at the Pentagon, many of us had been in the army for a while. We were a little broken down in the body department and had seen our fair share of these types of events. There we were at the twilight of our careers huddled in small groups during the dawn of one more PT morning. Of course there was the usual grumbling between the old soldiers asking one another if we were motivated yet and if we had a cup of esprit de corps to spare. But there was a sprinkling of young soldiers among us too, and their shiny new faces kept us old timers from getting too cynical and fussy. As the sun poked up above the horizon, the army's command sergeant Mader [assumed spelling] called the gaggle to attention. And the formation began to run.

Speaker 1: Hut. Two. Three. Four. Hut. Two. Three. Four. Double time. [ Soldiers singing ]

Rick Howard: The non commissioned officers, the NCOs, led the assemblage in rousing voice and extolled the virtues of granny, my girl, and the C130. Below the roar of the singing just in the background you could hear the footsteps of the 1,500 strong pounding the pavement in syncopated rhythm. [ Soldiers singing ] The formation crested the hill overlooking Arlington Cemetery and the vista of Washington, D.C opened up before us. The army colors of the front of the formation started their descent towards the cemetery just as the rising sun reached the top of the Washington Monument several miles distant. And still the singing and the pounding drove the formation as it snaked down the hill towards the front gates. [ Soldiers singing ] As the colors passed the cemetery like a line of dominoes falling the singing faded away. One platoon after the other fell silent in mute honor of our fallen comrades in arms laid to rest in the national cemetery. As the voices muted, the only sound you could hear was the constant beat, beat, beat of the run and the army colors whipping in the slight breeze. Nobody spoke except the occasional NCO keeping everybody in step with a solid, but quiet --

Speaker 1: Hut. Two. Three. Four. Hut. Two. Three. Four.

Rick Howard: It was serene. It was sublime. Midway through the run the command sergeant major called the formation to a halt and commanded us to execute a right face towards the middle of the cemetery. The morning sun had burned off the last vestiges of mist from the manicured lawns. The breeze trickled through the formation's silence and the army colors at the front. And then we all heard it. [ Music ] That mournful sound of a single bugler playing "Taps." He began low at first, almost whispering the sound through the horn. But slowly his crescendo wrapped the listener into a cocoon of sadness, memory, and gratitude about the lives that could have been or that was. On that misty morning young and old soldiers alike shed mutual tears as the bugle played on. [ Music ] When it was done, and the silence greeted the end of the song, a chill went down my back. It occurred to me that we were not merely taking a morning jog anymore. We were actually passing in review. These fallen soldiers, some of whom had given the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and others who were prepared to do so, were watching us and sizing us up. I hoped that we could pass muster. I had this great desire to let them all know that we had the guide on now and it was in good hands. We would not let them down. I stood a little taller then. My old muscles didn't ache so much. As we began to run home, the burden was a little lighter. As 1,500 boarded the buses to head back to the Pentagon, I realized that this old soldier was less cynical today, less worn for wear. Although I may not have that shiny face of one of those new soldiers, I was reborn this morning. Together both old and young, we will carry on. And that's a wrap. For all of you friends and family members who have lost a loved one in the service of this country, we stand with you to commemorate this Memorial Day. And that's CSO perspectives brought to you by N2K CyberWire. Visit thecyberwire.com for additional resources that accompany this episode and check out our book "Cybersecurity First Principles: A Reboot of Strategy and Tactics" for a deep dive on all topics covered in this podcast. For reference I've added some helpful links in the show notes and we'd love to know what you think of this podcast. Your feedback ensures we deliver the insights to keep you a step ahead in the rapidly changing world of cybersecurity. If you like the show, please share a rating and review in your podcast app. And you can also fill out a survey in the show notes or send an email to csop@n2k.com. We're privileged that N2K's CyberWire is part of the daily routine of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. N2K makes it easy for companies to optimize your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your teams while making your teams smarter. Learn how at n2k.com. This episode was produced by Liz Stokes. Our theme song is by Blue Dot Sessions remixed by Elliott Peltzman who also mixes the show and provides original music. Our executive producer is Jennifer Eiben. Our executive editor is Brandon Karpf. Simone Petrilla is our president. Peter Kilpe is our publisher. And I'm Rick Howard. Thanks for listening. [ Music ]