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Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering The Fallen

I'm going to go a little against the grain here today because I have always considered Memorial Day as National BBQ Day.  I have been lucky to do so.  You would have to go back to World War I to find a person in my family who died in military service.  And yet every generation but my own has served and fought.  I looked back on it last night as I pondered Memorial Day and marveled that all of my grandfathers had come back from WWII.  My father was not sent to Viet Nam in the 60s when he served.  My husband was a data dink in the Marines and was flown in and out of zones that needed his expertise.  Both of my boys were grunts in the Iraqi war and both came home from their tours.

Statistically my family is an exceptional outlier.

I, personally, do not know anyone who has died in battle during my lifetime.  This does not mean that I don't understand the Day, it just means that it has never touched me personally, and that I had years to consider the importance of this day while both of my boys were in war zones clearing out people who live to kill us and our way of life.  I consider myself the luckiest woman in the world, and I don't believe in luck.

Both of my boys lost friends in Iraq. They both tell me that most of their friends who died, however, were lost once they got back home.  I believe it is incumbent upon us, as a nation, to remember those people on this day, as well.  Nobody comes back from war the same person they were before they left, and yet we seem to expect them to be the same person we knew. That is outrageous.  They have seen things we never will see and should never hope to see.  Neither of my boys talk a lot about their experiences and what they do talk about I suspect is highly sterilized for "mom hearing".

The ones who survive need to be remembered, and we do that on Veteran's Day, The Fourth of July, and the like. but this is one day we set aside for all of those who died in battle fighting for our freedoms and defending our Constitutional way of life.  I'm sure none of those men thought for a second about any of that while they were out there fighting.  I sincerely believe that the only thoughts running through their minds was trying to stay alive and how scared they must have been.

Have you ever been in a fire fight?  I know I haven't.  It doesn't sound like anything I'd ever want to experience.  So, I can't even imagine what it must be like to be a scared kid in the middle of one just wanting to get home in one piece. I know, as a mother, thoughts like that haunted me and I lived for every contact I had with my kids while they were in country.  My boss even let me spend as much time on the phone at work as possible if one of them called while they were in.  Calls were extremely rare and therefore precious to us all.  When each boy got back he even invited them out on his houseboat for a small party.

For some odd reason it bothers both of my boys when people thank them for their service.  I've had to explain to them several times that people really are thankful for all they've done and don't yet realize they've done.  It still makes them uncomfortable, but they will smile, say thank you, and walk away.  Do they feel uncomfortable enough to refuse the free beer at the bars?  Yeah, smile and walk away.

I feel heavy sadness for all of the parents, siblings, wives, children, and loved ones who didn't get their soldiers back.  I openly weep when I see pictures of people around the headstones of those who did pay the ultimate price for freedom.  Secretly I say a prayer for them and then thank God that I am not one of them. I've never had to pay that price along with my husband or child.

So to all of those who have paid that price and to their families that are still paying and always will be, Thank You.  Thank all of you for your service.  It is never forgotten and always appreciated.

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