Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Some Gave All

Guest post by Suzann Darnall

Just what is Memorial Day? Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. It was originally known as Decoration Day and was designated as a day of remembrance when the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country were decorated with flowers, flags, or other decorations. Most do not realize it was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor all our dead on both sides of that conflict which tore apart families and pitted brother against brother.

Some people get insulted if others use Memorial Day to thank a veteran for his service. Others are upset if someone uses the greeting, “Happy Memorial Day!” And, let’s face it, it is often confused with Veterans Day or Armed Forces Day. While I recognize the difference between these various holidays honoring our military and I realize the importance in honoring those for whom each holiday is specifically designed to honor, I truly do not feel it is an insult to any of the groups to honor others who have served or are serving. It is my absolute belief that it is better we give honor when and where we can, even if “inappropriate” to the actual holiday, rather than not honor those who defend and protect our liberty. ‘Cause when all is said and done, each and every soldier, sailor, airman, and marine counts!

But, I also feel it is important that we acknowledge the often horrible circumstances that lead to someone earning the right to be appropriately honored on Memorial Day. It means they died in military service to their country, often in time of war. Like it or not, war is a part of the remembering that takes place for far too many on this very special day of tribute. Even as we have military serving in danger zones about the world, I think too many forget this very un-party-like aspect of this holiday. It is about loss and sorrow, as well as families getting together to barbecue or picnic.

I remember going with my grandparents once to place flowers on a relative’s grave on Memorial Day. I was very young and do not remember the relative’s name. But, I remember my grandparents and my aunt crying as they stood around the headstone. Mostly I remember my older cousin and I getting all prettied up in church dresses, as well as dressing up our Barbie dolls all fancy, too. Then, if I remember correctly, we went to eat lunch in one of the very nice department store restaurants in downtown Charleston. At that point war and death really made no impact on me about the day.

Yesterday, to church, I wore blue and gray, with silver jewelry, to honor the colors of the United States Air Force. My father and my husband both were career officers in the Air Force. I also wore a WAR medallion given to me by my father when he returned from his third tour in Vietnam. I had a favorite uncle who served in Southeast Asia, too. I was blessed that my husband did not serve in a war zone during his career. So, for me, Vietnam is the war that hits closest to home. Although we did have many family members who served in World War II, it does not have a personal feel for me.

My father travelled all the time in the military, sometimes gone for long stretches, so him being sent to Vietnam for a year did not seem really unusual. Until one night when I had a complete meltdown while babysitting at a neighbor’s home. I was watching one of my favorite movies, John Wayne’s “Green Berets”, on TV and it suddenly occurred to me that people were actually shooting at my daddy and trying to kill him. I called my mother in tears and she was able to talk me back to calm and reassure me that daddy was fine.

It was for this reason that I wore my WAR medallion to church in honor of Memorial Day. ‘Cause I think we need to remember that Memorial Day is based predominantly on the loss and grief of war. It is mainly to honor those who have died in the service of their country and all too often in battle. There is pain, suffering, blood, and death that pays the price for our freedom and for their being honored on this darkest of the military holidays.

I also wore it ‘cause not all casualties of war die on the battlefield. Some are the walking wounded who carry internal, emotional, and/or psychological scars. Some are maimed beyond recognition. Others live, but no longer walk. And, many have died or will die years and even decades after war due to exposure to toxic chemicals, developing cancers, and suicide. They are still very much casualties of war, just not the way most people think about it.

So, while doing your yard projects or preparing that family feast, take time to remember those who have died in the service of our country. And, if you wanna thank a veteran for his service as you are out and about, go ahead and do it. None of the dead are gonna mind their brothers and sisters at arms being honored on their day. Lest we forget, all gave some and some gave all.


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