John Doe, Son of a Gun


In the 17th century women were frequent visitors to warships to comfort the crew. And these relationships produced children, some legitimate, some not. The fathers were sometimes known, sometimes not.

Babies on board were birthed out between the cannon on the gun deck providing some measure of privacy. The baby’s paternity might be noted as “son of a gun.”


Gun deck USS Constitution

Image Credit

Our military heros have been siring sons for centuries; men who did the right thing for their country but, perhaps, could have done better for their women.

Let me tell a story, a true story . . . but no names, no links. I want to honor the young man of whom I speak, while yet grieving over a wound left behind. . .

In a very public event, in a very public place, our young man was laid to rest in the Hallowed Grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. He gave the last full measure of devotion defending our country and our way of life.

As the military honor guard moved through the sad ritual of folding the casket flag — snap and crease, smooth and fold — a young woman sat solemnly holding the young man’s son.

But the young woman was not his wife; the little boy did not carry the young man’s name: he’s a 21st century son of a gun.

The little boy received the folded flag, honoring his father. Another flag went to the mother of the fallen soldier. . .not the mother of his child.

Scriptures teach us that there is no greater love than that a man give his life for another. There is no greater love, but might there be some regrets, some good not done? Is our soldier in the warrior’s Valhalla wondering now what he might have done differently?

As he passes the streams at Fiddler’s Green does he wonder what he could revisit on this side of eternity?

Stories about the young man’s death said that he joined the military to provide for his son; he wanted to be an honorable man. And he eagerly planned to return to the young woman and care for his son.

The young man gave his life for us all. And the Nation is grateful.

But I wonder if our grieving would be more complete if, as he gave his life for us, he had given his name to his son.

God bless him, and his son of a gun.


Cross post at Reasoned Audacity.

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