Memorial Day: When I was a child, we occasionally visited a cemetery on Memorial Day. We visited graves of family members. I was unaware of the military significance of the holiday until much later in life.
Military Families. I have very little understanding or experience with the military. My dad served in WWII, but we were not a military family. I have looked at our genealogy and had relatives who served but no one was a career military person.
Jeny has more military connections. Her dad was a POW in WWII. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge. He was not a career military man, but his son and brother were military men. Jeny’s brother rose to be Sgt. Major of the Kansas National Guard. Her uncle rose to be a General in the Army.
We were married and had our children when we were quite young. I was in school until I was 27, so I was never drafted or felt the calling to serve during the Viet Nam era.
I have never been anti-military. Any angst I have about war is against the politicians who get us into war. I have the utmost respect for those who serve and have served. I thank them for their service.
Agent Orange. Memorial Day is to remember those who paid the ultimate price and died in combat. Today I want to honor other casualties of war. First in addition , there are those who did not die in combat, but who did suffer and die because of combat.
58,318 who died in Vietnam have their name on the Memorial Wall. 3.5 million served. By most estimates more soldiers have died from the effects of Agent Orange since the war than were actually killed in combat. I have several friends and acquaintances who have died from lingering effects. We have not done enough to honor the victims of Agent Orange. They are still among us, suffering from cancer and other health issues. They deserve to be honored.
Suicide. In recent years, over 6,000 veterans a year commit suicide. That is over 16 veterans a day committing suicide. Obviously, some of the deaths are not directly related to combat experiences, but many are related. They deserved to be honored.
Living Casualties. In addition to those who died, those who lived with suffering deserve to be honored. PTSD, nightmares, memories and fears from combat experiences are painful and affect quality of life for those who do not commit suicide.
Jeny’s father hoarded shoes and food as a result of his POW experiences. When we visited him, Jeny would throw out bulging cans that had been in the pantry for years. He told her he would eat them if he became as hungry as he was when he was a prisoner.
Those Who Waited. In addition, the loved ones who suffered through separation deserve to be honored. The people who did not go to war but supported those who did. The wives in the past and now the wives, husbands and children who wait. The sacrifices they make are enormous. The ultimate sacrifice they can make is the loss of the loved one. But even if a soldier comes home alive, the birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones cannot be relived.
My Mother waited four years for my Father to come home from WWII. I always sensed a special bond between Mom and myself because of those years we spent together waiting.
Memorial Day is for those who died; Veterans Day is for those who served. Join me in honoring all who served and all who waited.
Jeny has a birthday on June 7.
Not quite a big round number but very close.
She is happy to have another one and hoping for more.