Memorial DayPosted: May 28, 2011
The day lilies are back. Honeysuckle and morning glories climb fences. Begonias bloom in pots and line sidewalks. Cannas are on the rise. Clover, wild onions, and dandelions spangle the grass.
It’s Memorial Day, the kick-off of summer. 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, standing up in the bed of irises I planted in Dad’s memory after he died.
Dad served in World War II — he was a sergeant who received a field commission to second lieutenant, a front-line medic, and got a Bronze Star with Valor.
“War is hell,” Dad said.
“War is a bloody, killing business,” General George Patton said. “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!”
“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,” said Dr. Harold Rosenberg, a WWII veteran.
Dad’s first exposure came at Mars La Tour, when his ambulance was hit by a plane. He jumped out and opened the back door to check on his men, and one fell out, dead on the ground, his head blown half off, brains and blood spilling. Dad never forgot.
I should go home this weekend and put flowers and a fresh flag on Dad’s grave. Mama’s, too. She was a veteran.
But instead I will stay here. Maybe cook hamburgers on the charcoal grill. Wait for my neighbor to hang his flag off the front porch…I don’t know why he hasn’t done it yet…maybe he’s too old and feeble to reach up…maybe I should offer to do it for him.
And while I do these things, I will remind myself that our nation is still at this killing business, and sons of others are over there learning to spill the blood of the enemy before their own is spilled — carrying the torch my 4th great grandfathers lit when they killed those who would keep them from making a country…carrying the torch my father held in Trier and Bastogne, carrying the torch my friend held in the jungle of Vietnam, the same torch another friend’s father held in the Hobo Woods when he lost his life two months before my friend was born.
Because of them, life today for me is grilled burgers, climbing roses, ice cream, day lilies, and a flag that waves in sunshine.