Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Today has been Memorial Day in the US, a day dedicated to remembering the fallen and past members of our military. It's the first Memorial Day in memory that I haven't had to work, feeding the consumerism that ruins all of our national holidays. Somewhat fittingly, it's also the first Memorial Day I honor my father's memory.

My dad's two tours of duty in Vietnam and the rest of his four years in the Army formed his personality in ways I've been learning to adapt to and overcome since I was a child. "Don't touch your dad when you wake him up," was one of my first lessons. He always woke ready to take down an enemy if he was touched. I saw it once when my cousin didn't know any better. It was as impressive as it was frightening.

Sometimes he had nightmares. Sometimes he had stories or jokes. But he always had two other things: an everlasting pride in his volunteer service, and a deep wound that remained unhealed even forty-five years after he returned home. You see, my dad and men like him returned home not to a public who him as a war veteran who had been required to see and do horrific things in order to survive and to protect the American Way of Life. No, they returned to a public that was a mix of ungrateful punks who either saw the veterans as a bunch of thugs and baby killers or were too cowed and embarrassed to speak against those who harassed, harangued, and spit upon our fighting men.

It took 30 years for someone to spontaneously thank my father for his service. Thirty years. Every time I think of that I feel shame for all the people who had crossed his path in that time who had been too uncomfortable with the subject to offer their thanks, to put a little bit of respect back in my dad's hands. I remember how moved and astonished he was when he told me the story later that day. It's something I've consciously tried not to let happen to any veteran I've run across since. I make it a point to thank them for their service, for keeping this the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

It's late now and it's no longer Memorial Day in some parts of the country. But it still is here, so let me just say this one thing and I'll close. While you were out at the lake with buddies or partying at home with friends today, cooking up steaks and brats, and enjoying your favorite beer or liquor, I hope you gave a thought to the men and women who have fought and died for this country, the men and women whose sacrifices allowed you a weekend free from worry or oppression. I hope you spared them a thought, and I hope you sent up a silent or spoken thank you. I know I did.

Thank you for your service, Dad. I love you and miss you. Until we meet again, I hope you know how very proud of you I am.

To all the men and women who have fought and died for this gorgeous country I call home, thank you. Know that your sacrifices were not in vain. 

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