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Tribute to a fallen Marine

Several years ago, I heard a story about some event in Washington, DC. At one point, they chose to honor all those present who had served in the Armed Forces. One by one, they called out the name of the service. Those who had served in that branch stood, and they were applauded.

When the United States Marine Corps was called out, everyone was astonished at one man who stood up. A short, pudgy, squeaky-voiced guy with big horn-rimmed glasses -- who many recognized as one of the nation's great gentle humorists and political satirists -- stood alongside the chiseled, manly men and insisted that he, too, had served as a United States Marine.

And he had.

Art Buchwald -- the man who fell in love with two cities, Paris and Washington, and regaled us all with tales of whimsy and silliness and insightulf satire -- was an active duty Marine from October 1942 until 1945. He lied about his age and bribed a drunk with booze to impersonate his father to get past the recruiter, and spent two years in the South Pacific.

I first discovered Buchwald in junior high, and read his collections of essays voraciously. I still remember pieces of it: his spot-on comparison of the NATO wranglings to the characters of Charles Shultz' Peanuts characters, with Lucy as France, Schroeder as Germany (naturally), Linus as Great Britain, and of course Charlie Brown as the United States.

He also wrote a book after the 9/11 attacks, called simply "we'll laugh again." Without diminishing the horror and significance of that day, he said, simply, that we will laugh again. Some day, the immediate shock and terror of that terrible event will fade enough that we will again feel free to be "normal," to resume our lives, to laugh again. And he was right.

All his life, Buchwald battled depression and other ailments. A diabetic, he suffered kidney disease and the amputation of one of his legs. Eventually, he decided to simply forgo any further dialysis and let nature take its course while he was under hospice care. Doctors gave him weeks, maybe a month or so.

That was in February of 2006.

Arthur Buchwald died on January 15, 2007.

He left us all with his last message, sent the way so many of his messages were delivered -- in a newspaper column. And it's all Art -- a bit of self-deprecating humor, full of good cheer and happiness, and not at all schmaltzy or depressing.

Art Buchwald lived his life the way he wanted to, and lived his death the way he wanted to. He leaves all a little poorer for his passing -- and a lot richer for his living.

Well done, Marine.

Comments (6)

Nicely done, a deserving sh... (Below threshold)

Nicely done, a deserving shout-out indeed.

I'm happy you were "re-assu... (Below threshold)

I'm happy you were "re-assured" by Art's book that "one day" we would be free to be "normal", to "resume our lives" and to "laugh again". When was this tome on the shelves? 3 months? 6 months? A year after the event?

Damn you, Jay Tea. You wro... (Below threshold)

Damn you, Jay Tea. You wrote the piece I intended to write this evening. I think the first book of his I read was Buchwald Stops Here, a collection of columns.

Errr, nice job.

Rest in peace, Art, and may... (Below threshold)

Rest in peace, Art, and may light perpetual shine upon you.

Buchwald was a truly funny ... (Below threshold)

Buchwald was a truly funny man.

My first recollection of him was a television report, where he posed as an "uncommitted delegate" to the 1968 Republican Convention, lounging by the pool with bikini-clad babes replenishing his drinks and peeling grapes for him.

RIP, Art.

Am I thinking of another pe... (Below threshold)

Am I thinking of another person?
I always thought of Art Buchwald as an obnoxious cheap shot artist. Even the normal reaction to be charitable towards those who've just passed doesn't explain the comments I see here.






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