Memorial Day and returning to the “Fertile Crescent”

OK….having been there before, the “Crescent” is long past it’s sell-by date for “fertility”. It’s a steaming, fetid morass of faux-humanity.

But nonetheless, I’m returning to Iraq in a few short days. The place that has spawned my nightmares, given birth to my unnatural paranoia, and changed my very soul….will again be my home for six months, this time as a Contractor. I’ll be literally a few miles from the spot I lost my friend, Jim Doster.

The only upside is that while I still get to lend my skills to keep the American Servicemember alive…..I have no command of Soldiers, and no direct burden of getting them home safely, as I did before.

I’m always burdened by what to teach my daughters about Memorial Day. Aside from ensuring they know it has no relation to the crass store sales, day off of work, and an excuse for a beer-infused barbecue……I don’t know whether to shelter them or expose them to the cold reality of this world.

What I do now, is that as each day passes, we lose the precious remaining few, of our generation that endured four long years of war on two fronts; war to protect the survival of our nation and our way of life. Their stories need to be told, not just on….but at least on Memorial Day. Ask your friends, kids or siblings to put down their smartphones, shelve Facebook for a few hours….and visit a cemetery, or a nursing home…a memorial or a museum. Say hi and thank you to the old fellow in the WWII Veteran ball cap at the mall. Learn and understand our history….and pass it down.

I’ve always been struck at how the following lines from the movie Memorial Day affect me every time I read them:

Dear Kylie, my old head can’t hold too much anymore but, today, a whole lot came flooding back into it. You might remember this afternoon as just another Saturday at Opa’s farmhouse. It wasn’t. I’ve never liked the word “souvenirs”, but I guess that’s what they are. Shards of memory, shrapnel. You take them to help you remember. What you don’t count on is they don’t let you forget. Pain. Happiness. Friendship. Death. Smells of diesel and dead animals. Eating meals within arm’s length of corpses. Men you laughed with a day before. People wonder if leaders are born or made. All I know is, you can see it in a man’s eyes. Problem is, leaders end up where they’re needed most. And eventually, that’s war. You’re special Kylie. I hope you know that. I always have. But I need you to stay strong. People look to guys like us to make decisions. If you do wear the uniform one day, remember something, when you put it on, you don’t get to choose the war or what happens when you get there. There’s no right or wrong in combat. There’s only what you did. You do your best, and you try to live with it. Some day they’ll take me off this porch for good. When that happens, what’s left that matters? Photographs, letters, empty clothes? No. It’s the stories behind them, those are what matter. Stories live forever, but only if you tell them. I may sound like I’ve known this a long time. I didn’t know it until today. I just wanted to say thank you for teaching me that. It was one hell of a souvenir. Love, Opa. 

Likewise, sage words from fellow veteran Tom McCuin:

Dear USA,

Monday is Memorial Day. It is the day we honor our war dead, those warriors who gave what Lincoln called, “the last full measure of devotion.” Enjoy your barbecues, your mattress sales, and your community pool openings, but remember you do so because those honored dead made it possible. Please do not offer your thanks to me or any other living veteran. It is not our day. We came home carrying our shields; they came home carried on theirs. Memorial Day the day we raise our glasses to absent comrades. Thank me and my living brothers-in-arms (and sisters, too) on Tuesday. But on Monday, turn your thoughts to the gardens of stone around the globe. See you at Section 60.

Not-so sage words from Constitutional Insurgent:

If I hear anyone say “Happy Memorial Day” this weekend….I’m ging to punch them in the throat.

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9 thoughts on “Memorial Day and returning to the “Fertile Crescent”

  1. Ed told me you’d written something a bit similar to my Memorial Day post so I thought I’d link it here for you….You’re right, we all appreciate Memorial Day, and we aren’t flippant, WE GET IT. As I said in my post, and this guy says in the link, buying mattresses and/or barbecuing without acknowledging the great sacrifice so many made for us is unthinking…not the way to spend this hallowed day.

    I wish you all the best in Iraq and pray for your girls as they see you leave again. Thanks for your continuing service, military or not. Z

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      • Oh, CI, I am SO SORRY. That is a very difficult time. You have a beautiful support system there in all your girls, obviously; they’ll keep the home fires burning and learn to deal with the livestock…But I KNOW you’d like to be there doing much of the work.
        Please blog when you’re settled and let us know what you can about what you’re up to….
        KEEP SAFE.
        Z

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    • Done! I’m still getting the hang of WP moderation [I was surprised that you weren’t already approved], and deleted the post at first, but all is right now.

      I remember that article from last year, and is just as poignant. Another piece I’ve read this weekend, reminded us that our gratitude to the fallen could in a way, be better expressed by how we remember them the other 364 days of the year. I’ll be happy just to see that from my fellow citizens today.

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