As we speak folks are preparing for the holiday known as Memorial Day. Families make vacation plans, organize the weekend cookouts, and head for the beach as Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer tourist and beach season. The Ocean State's beaches are groomed to perfection and merchants pray for a healthy economic season.
Memorial Day, one of remembrance and reverence, has Southern roots. This day served as THE day to honor those soldiers who had fallen during the Civil War. Now, Memorial Day signifies a day to honor all fallen soldiers.
In my family, my father fought in World War II, both my grandfathers served in World War I, one in the Army, the other as a Navy medic. All three received some sort of injury that they carried with them throughout their lives. The scars of mustard gas and the pain of broken bones. Those were the physical injuries. Ones you could see or diagnose. Painful and debilitating. Life shortening. Snared by war's tentacles.
The price of war carries another injury, a longer tentacle if you will. One that can't been seen or tested with the medicine of the day. The emotional scars associated with war are horrific. The Greatest Generation, all who served in WWII, had a reason for not mentioning what they witnessed or did in battle. They worked hard to provide a brighter future for the world and held fast to a better way of life once the war ended. Heroes. No matter what funny stories they did offer, the back-story remained unmentionable. The embedded tentacle. The one thing that refuses to release its victim. The nightmares plague them.
War changes a soldier. There is no surgery or pill to remove this tentacle, only therapies to help the soldier cope with the unimaginable.
The families suffer along with the soldier. In grief, they mourn an indescribable loss. The same is true for the injured soldier. Life with the soldier has been changed. The family knows something happened, that their loved one returned altered in some way. Everyone involved must live with war's ugly tentacles not knowing what hit them.
The beast grasps the future as well. Children of fallen soldiers grow up knowing something's missing. The love of a father or mother who they've only heard stories about before IT happened. Admittedly, I do not know how this feels for a child, but the absence of that parent's love has to be painful.
My faith tells me heaven exists. That before one passes, the bad stuff jettisons itself from the body. The tentacles are removed. Their stories unfold. Remorse, regret, and the endured fear remain on earth. Heaven doesn't allow such matters beyond its gates.
My father wishes for peace. When the first Gulf War began, he wept. He has always wished for peace. Peace from the memories. Peace from the images. A peace to calm his soul.
This Memorial Day, as we head out for much needed rest and relaxation, cook up those hotdogs and hamburgers, or bask on a warm sandy beach, please take time to say a few words of thanks for the lives lost, the injured, both physically and emotionally, and the families changed by the tentacles of war. Let's pray we can slay the war beast once and for all to bring about an everlasting peace.
Thanks to the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. You are not forgotten.
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- ▼ 2012 (89)