Memorial Day

The day lilies are back. Honeysuckle and morning glories and pretty roses climb fences and trellises. Impatiens and begonias border sidewalks. Clover, wild onions, and dandelions spangle the yard. It’s time for the first watermelon cutting, time to toast marshmallows, time to slap some burgers on the grill.

It’s Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is for honoring our nation’s war dead. It’s a day to put flowers on soldiers’ graves and hang the flag in remembrance of those who gave their lives in service to our country.

I have three 4th-great grandfathers who fought in the Revolution. I have a piece of the original tombstone of one of them, placed in a mulched bed of creeping Jenny in the backyard.

Dad served in World War II and rode with the Third Army under George Patton. He was a sergeant, a front-line medic, and got a Bronze Star with Valor. “War is hell,” he said.

“War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it’s the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you’ll know what to do!” Patton said.

No soldier is ever one hundred percent sane after the initial indoctrination of war. No soldier is ever free from emotional scars related to perpetual exposure to imminent danger. “The first exposure, whether from being wounded, the scream of an artillery projectile, a buddy with a gaping wound exposing his guts, cries of pain, stench of blood, decaying body parts, the odor from a flame thrower producing that of roast meat, your buddy blown to bits, missing a limb or two, the realization that he’ll never walk or talk, a pig devouring the guts of an enemy, are forever etched into the brain matter. Unlike a lost limb or a wound from injured tissues, cerebral scars cannot be seen. But they are there.” (Dr. Harold Rosenberg, WWII veteran)

War is hell. Soldiers die. Soldiers come home from the battlefront to live among innocents who stick SUPPORT YOUR TROOPS ribbons on their cars, and they try to resume normal lives after what they’ve seen and where they’ve been and what they’ve been baptized in.

So when you fly your flag today and think of the war dead, remember those at battle now. We’ve had over 4 thousand deaths and 30,000 wounded. We’ve got 150,000 men in boots on the ground. Thirty percent of them will develop mental problems within three or four months after they come home. That’s 45,000 boys the ages of my sons who are coming back to mamas and daddies and wives and babies and in dire need of help.

Folks, it’s gonna take a whole lot more than those damn yellow stickers on your SUV’s to take care of these boys!

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5 Comments on “Memorial Day”

  1. I have a son who is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq… he flies helicopters for the Army. He was there for the original surge, in 2003. And he came home safe and sound, physically and emotionally, thank God. And another son is in the Air Force out in Wyoming. The son in Iraq called last night (6 am today, Baghdad time) to chat, FREE OF CHARGE as a gift from the Army on Memorial Day. He’s feeling good about our progress over there at this point, which is good to hear. And today is my Air Force son’s birthday, so we called him in Wyoming today. So proud of both of them. Thanks for your wonderful post today, Kathy. Happy Memorial Day!

  2. sarahemc2 says:

    Kathy,

    Thanks for reminding us what will be needed. Scotti is heading up a survey for the state of the mental health needs of returning veterans… and, let me tell you, it’s a chilling picture. One third of returning veterans suffer from either depression, PTSD, or both–and every extended tour increases the risk exponentially. Thanks for reminding us that it isn’t just the war dead we need to remember, but the soldiers who survive to come home.

  3. Sherry says:

    Woke up this morning to dense pea-soup fog, rare for our dry climate. Bush was speaking at the Air Force Academy graduation today, while we drove to Denver for a meeting. When we returned to town a few hours later, graduation was over, the skies were clear, and the fog left with Air Force One. We passed a huge RV diesel-pusher bus named “Patriot Flier” with a toad (towing a car) – bet that’s an expensive rig to pilot at $4.79 a gallon for diesel.

    Kathy, you remind us that remembering those who survived is as critical as remembering those who were lost. The cost of war is so very high. True patriotism sometimes means looking beyond the obvious displays.

  4. kathyrhodes says:

    Your first three sentences give me such hope!

  5. Sherry says:

    The Thunderbird air show was cancelled, so I know I’m not the only one bummed about the fog that arrived with Bush. 😉


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