(If this post sounds familiar to you, it’s because I originally wrote it in 2010. It’s pretty valid today.)
Today is Memorial Day – the day we honor those fallen warriors from all our wars.
I find that I’m having a difficult time with this holiday. I have a difficult time with all patriotic holidays that honor our nation’s service men and women.
It’s not that I’m anti-military – to the contrary – Big Al was in the Air Force for 20 years
and worked as a DAF Civilian
for another 13 years. I appreciate and admire anyone who puts their life on the line for their country. I even appreciate those who didn’t die in the service. My father served in World War II
(in fact WWII is the reason for my existence, because he never would have met my mother if he hadn’t been in the army). And obviously, Big Al didn’t die in Vietnam or Thailand during his time of service.
My problem comes from the time of Vietnam. Al went and served in Vietnam and Thailand. I stayed home and raised a son by myself. The Air Force messed up his pay, and, but for my parents, my kid and I would have starved or been on the streets. And I lost that year out of my life. To this day, I have to consciously think about how old I am, or how old my son is (subtract year of birth from current year, etc.) because I blocked that year out of my memory. I never heard the phone ring, or footsteps on the porch without steeling myself for the chaplain’s visit. And after Al came home there were months of readjustment – to each other – to our family roles – to “normality”. Unless you have lived through a time of separation when your spouse or sweetheart is in harm’s way for a significant portion of that time, you can’t imagine what it does to you.
My problem now with patriotic holidays is a holdover from that time. Because when he came back there were no parades. There were no patriots meeting him at the airport. There were no prayers for his safe return in church. There was no thanks from a grateful public. He was required to travel in uniform, but as soon as he could he changed his clothes. He didn’t wear his uniform to church. He didn’t wear it in public at all, if possible. Because he didn’t want to be spit on, or booed, or otherwise reviled.
So now, when the country has at last come to its senses and is once again appreciating the sacrifices of men and women in uniform, I have a hard time getting into the spirit. Because I remember how it was when we were the ones doing the hard thing and serving our country, and we weren’t appreciated and loved and cheered.
I only wish we would learn something, and not have to send our men and women into battle, either here at home, or overseas. Surely we can manage to behave responsibly and get along with the rest of the world. If only…