Memorial Day always flusters me a bit and today is no different. Like most Americans, I’ve looked upon this holiday as a three day weekend opportunity away from work. It represents the start of summer – with family BBQs, camping and such on many people’s agenda. For others it is time to shop the holiday specials or attend a parade in town. In Portland Oregon, Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off of our annual civic Rose Festival. All over America flags fly, businesses close, and speeches are made, and then we all go on about our business.
Lingering in the back of my mind is a nagging feeling of neglect, or maybe even guilt, because I’m not honoring the holiday as it was intended. Sure, I watch the President place the wreath at Arlington Cemetery, catch a parade, or fly my flag at half mast, but rarely do I take the time to reflect on why the day was created, or to honor the honorable. I should.
His father was also an Army veteran and so too was his father’s father. My brother, John, also served in the US Air Force and all of our Uncles were in the US Navy during time of war. So, yes indeed, my family is heavily represented in the spirit of this holiday, yet I rarely take a moment to honor them, or those who stood with them, and I should. We all should.
For those who have endured military service the experience is personal and it is different for everyone.
Unlike many of my brethren, I was not emotionally scarred by my military experience although it was during time of war. Of course Air Force duty is a long way from the front line in most cases and surely not to be compared with grunts that were locked in battle eye-to-eye.
However, I think it has as much to do with the jobs I had, which were involved in saving lives and not taking them. All three primary duties I had during my tenure; Aircrew Life Support Specialist, PJ (parajumper /paramedic), and Survival Instructor, were concerned with keeping people alive. The motto of our unit (promoted to pilots and airman) was “Your Life is Our Business” and business was generally good. I was lucky enough to have had a different orientation and experience than most get in a time of war … and I am the better for it.
No Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for me!
I’m sad to say that this isn’t the case for many veterans, especially those who are returning from multiple tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. My father’s old unit the Fighting Forty-First, that just returned 2,700 soldiers from a year-long deployment in Iraq, recently made news because of the lack of respect these soldiers received from the Army. You see, injured Oregon Army National Guard troops just back from Iraq say the Army has been forcing many of them off active duty while they still need medical care. Local congressmen have taken up their cause, complaining to the Secretary of the Army that members of Oregon’s 41st Infantry Brigade are being systematically denied their benefits. This makes my blood boil and I will make an effort to support the troops in getting the medical treatment they deserve. In this case, the pen may be mightier than the sword.