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I have a picture of my dad from the 1940s, looking pretty cocky. He went into the Army when he was 19 and they sent him to North Africa, Sicily and then into Italy. Somehow he also got to France, where he drank champagne for the first time.

So, I'm thinking of him on Memorial Day. And of my Gaga, my step-grandfather, who was gassed in France during WWI and never really recovered. And of my maternal grandfather Bill Boyd who was a sailor during WWI. I have a photo of my grandmother wearing his sailor suit after the war.

There's a Westmoreland Ancestor who may or may not have fought for the CSA and a Boyd Ancestor who definitely did.

I am also thinking of my great-grandmother Lillian who raised a large family during the last years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th. She ran a store, looked after babies and grandbabies and had a favorite cuss-word. She didn't go to a particular war but she must have had an indominable spirit. I think I can see it in her face in the old pictures.

And I'm thinking of young men when I was a young women, men who didn't burn their draft cards and men who did. Men who didn't come back from Southeast Asia. And men who came back so ruined and empty that they are still healing, after all these years. So, I'm thinking of my handsome neighbor Jackie and how the war killed him, years after he was home and "safe".

And I'm wondering about Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and whether we are ever going to figure this thing out. The seduction of all this glory and honor and death and destruction.


I reckon not.

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 25 May 2013

    Beautiful, Byron. May all your ancestors be remembered, and your military dead honored on this day.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Monday, 27 May 2013

    Thank you, Galina. And the same to yours. Blessings to you--both bright and shadowed.

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