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Regarding Memorial Day May 26, 2007

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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So the world goes ‘round, the rivers flow, and once again it’s Memorial Day in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.

It’s so nice to live in a country where we take time to remember and honor our family and friends who had the courage and fortitude to step up to the plate, take one for the team, and sadly, pay the Ultimate Price for our freedom.

My father was on an aircraft carrier in WWII, the USS Randolph. He survived the experience and came home to marry my Mom and raise two wayward boys. He seldom talked about his time at sea, but got together yearly with his surviving Buds from the ship, making the pilgrimages to Pennsylvania and Rhode Island into little family mini-vacations. We had fun, and it obviously meant a lot to him to stay connected to these men.

Over the years my brother and I watched our father struggle with bouts of depression, saw how he buried himself in his work, were vaguely aware of how he feared any idle moment in which his Troubled Past might intrude upon his Peaceful Present. Long before PTSD became a common diagnosis for the damaged condition of men returned from war, men who had seen the unthinkable, we saw the price Our Father had paid to secure our freedom.

I buried my Dad last year, and as he lost his strength of will, what he had held inside for sixty years came tumbling out. This proud man, in his eighties, woke screaming in the night from the memories of his best friend’s head being removed by flying metal as he stood at my Dad’s side; from the screams of his comrades being burned alive in munitions explosions; from the stench he could never forget, of scraping their burnt flesh off of bulkheads with a God damned putty knife.

He did these things so we could be free.

He did these things so his children wouldn’t have to.

———————————————————————————————————–

 

As I write this, the grandchildren of that Greatest Generation are fighting and dying in Iraq, or coming home carrying the heavy weight of what they’ve seen and done, to be forever burdened with images of their friends’ last gasping breath, of bleeding, limbless children, of wailing mothers holding the scorched bodies of their infants.

How will we honor this newest generation of American Heroes? By hiding their flag-draped coffins from public view, as though their sacrifice isn’t worth noting? By providing them with third-rate health care when their injuries end their usefulness to The System? By prosecuting them for their transgressions when the psychological damage they’ve endured drives them to drugs, alcohol or domestic violence?

By continuing to fund the political juggernaut which spends their lives like some devalued currency in an illegal war of aggression?

On this Memorial Day I suggest that We The People can do better. I suggest that we honor and support our troops by demanding that their lives not be wasted on hegemaniacal junkets for the profits of the well-connected. I implore each of us to hound our elected officials into doing what’s right and moral. I pledge to raise my voice against the policies of a government which purports to act in my name.

And I pray that my Father will forgive me for having let it come to this.

 

Have a meaningful Memorial Day.

Comments»

1. Phydeaux Speaks - May 30, 2007

Very moving piece, my friend. Two of my Mom’s brother’s served in the Pacific Theater during WWII; one came home and the other died on Iwo Jima. And just yesterday, I found out that my dearest friend’s older son is shipping out to Iraq in September….

2. littlebangtheory - May 31, 2007

Thanks Phydeaux. I cried writing it. I miss my Dad, and especially regret that he couldn’t talk about his experiences; it would have been good to know him in that way. Guess some things are just too painful to share.

And thinking about these young people joining up and shipping out makes me sadder still. It’s one thing to give your all trying to stop an unspeakable evil, but another entirely to buy “the lie” and participate in this misguided misadventure.

It’s enough to drive an agnostic to prayer…

3. konagod - June 2, 2007

You exist.

Now. You wanna be on the blogroll?

I warn you, I’m a loser baby. Nobody fuckin’ reads my blog anymore.

4. littlebangtheory - June 2, 2007

I do. You’re lucid, succinct and stylish. As a writer, I mean!

…And you’re blogrolled!

5. PortlyDyke - June 2, 2007

Thanks for writing this. My Dad and Father-in-law, both combat vets (WWII and Korea) are both very mum about their war-time experiences. I have always wondered about the connection between a seeming surge in domestic violence in the 50s and 60s and its connection to undiagnosed PTSD.

Thousands upon thousands of young men who saw and experienced the worst that human existence has to offer were simply expected to “come home and get back to work”. This, coupled with the cultural expectation that to “be a man” is to bottle up your emotions, is, to me, one of the cruelest aspects of sexism.

I’ve only even glimpsed the reality of my Dad’s experience twice — once when he’d had just a little too much Christmas cheer, and a late night story tumbled out, along with a few tears, and in the chilling tone of his voice when my Mom wanted to go to Hawaii, and he said: “I’ve already been there.”

6. littlebangtheory - June 3, 2007

PD, good to see you here!

You’ve hit several nails on the head here. I am my father’s son, and I learned the lesson early in life that Real Men don’t talk about it, they just carry on.

I wish I had known sooner what was revealed to me in my Dad’s last days – that the burden he carried all those years never diminished, and really defined him as a human being. I deeply regret not asking him to tell me his story, and not having the chance to thank him for what he endured to assure my future.

If I could do it over, I would find a way to tell him how important it was to me to know what he had been through. While he would never complain about his lot, I think he would be willing to share his stories if he thought I needed to hear them. Such is the selflessness of that generation.

Strive to be as brave in your inquiries as your father was in his defense of your right to inquire. I’m guessing it will be good for you both.


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