Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: What is means to me

*This is a post I wrote last year for Memorial and never published. Very personal  for me and for my family. I have not edited it, realizing that it still conveys my thoughts about those that serve in the military to protect our country, especially those that give the ultimate sacrifice while doing so.

Memorial Day.
The official kick off to summer.
Like the rest of our American holidays, it has become a day for sales, parties and hanging out.
But, it actually has a meaning, that if we stop and think for just about, should give us pause.
Memorial Day is the national day of recognizing those that have died in service to our country.
Those that never came home. Those that fought and died for the greater good.

I personally take that for granted just about every day.

As someone whose family has the honor of having had several members serve in the military, I take it for granted that they all made it home. But the reality is that most of them were lucky. 
They did a dangerous and dirty job and even those that  were not in the direct line of fire put their lives at risk, just by being there.
Two of my grandfathers, and one of  Steve's were WWII veterans.

One of mine  served in France and saw some of the worst the war could muster. 
His stories, that I only heard at the very end of his life, made me proud and sad at the same time.
He risked his life, literally, time and time again.
Gus Bisson served his country and while he did not ever brag about it,  I know it was an honor that he never forgot. As college girl, I bought him a book about the war he had fought and as I watched him look through it and saw the emotions on his face,  I wondered if I had made a mistake. He later told me one of the first of several stories about the war. I will never forget the story or the look on his face as he told me about waking up in the early light of dawn in the graveyard they had taken shelter in for the night, to see himself surrounded by headstones with his name on them. Still groggy, he thought he was dead. Then he remembered he was in France and his name was a French name. I cannot wrap my mind around being in a situation, day after day that would allow you to wake up in a graveyard and think you might be dead. 

He was one of the funniest and most calming people I have ever met. I never saw him lose his cool (although I have heard stories) and I cannot imagine him in battle.Neither can I imagine two of my favorite uncles in the hell that was Vietnam. 

My family is lucky.

As I contemplate the thought that they might have died, I also wonder what it is that makes someone willing to do so. Do you think when you leave  your town, your country, your base,  " I am willing to die"?I seriously doubt that is the actual thought process. What I suspect is this. The United States is not only a country, but also an idea. We are deeply flawed, but we are also just and fair. We strive, as a general rule, to preserve the flicker of light with which  all humans are born . So, as my grandfathers, uncle and friends have gone off to serve and potentially fight for our country, they used their belief in that ideal to see the bigger picture. 
That picture is not "winning" but "saving". Saving the country that they love and that loves them.

*That is how I ended the post and today, I don't know how to finish it. But I do know this, I am proud to be from the country that remembers to honor their fallen soldiers and remembers that certain things are worth defending, even with your life.

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