Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day reflections

Memorial Day.
Remembering those who served in our country's armed forces.
So here's a run-down of those nearest to me who I'm remembering today:
Beve's grandfather was in the infantry in France in WWI, was gassed with mustard gas and was never quite the same again. And, even though the War Office said he was too tall, Grampie supplied his own uniform and went off to build roads in Burma in WWII. He was 'lucky' to have gotten sick enough that when his first unit shipped out, he couldn't go. Lucky, because they all died on that most deadly of roads in that deadly theatre--the CBI.

My maternal grandfather, Chief, the career naval man, sailed on practically every sea on this globe, but spent much of the war years in the Pacific--and I don't know how he managed to avoid battles. Hmm, maybe he didn't. Maybe he just didn't tell his wife and daughter how rough things really were. Maybe he wanted them to think he sailed through without any scrapes with death whatsoever. So from where I sit, it seems like one long adventure, Chief's life at sea.  My other grandfather was slated to ship out as an officer in the Army to Omaha Beach, where that unit was all lost, but he had such severe back problems he spent the war training officers at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. And these grandfathers of mine are not the first in my family to have served. In fact, I have ancestors who've fought in every war this country ever fought, from the Revolutionary War forward (I'm related to Patrick Henry and Oliver Perry), including men on both sides of the Civil War (cousins named, of all things, O'Hara, and no, I'm NOT related to the fictional Scarlett O'Hara of "Gone with The Wind.")

My dad was a naval ROTC in college. It wasn't until he graduated that he and Mom could finally marry.  Then Dad went to sea as an engineer on one ship after another for six years. Dad served in peace-time, though. He sailed, visited ports all over the Pacific rim, and played a lot of bridge--when he wasn't working on the bridge.  It wasn't a very hard life. Interesting but not stressful. No bombs or bullets making life worrisome for those out in it or those waiting at home.

But I also know young men who are serving now, in a theatre of war far across the globe. It's both easier and more difficult to serve now, I think. These men can speak to their wives and parents often. Thanks to skype, and other technologies, the world is smaller.  But because of these very technologies, families at home know more about what is going on with soldiers far away. For better and worse. Sometimes this is good, but sometimes--when the word comes that a unit will be out of communication range for a while--it increases the worry. Years ago, a family wouldn't know such things until long after the fact.

So I stand in awe of these young men and women who go. And their spouses who wait. Their parents who wait as well. I' tip my hat if I wore one, and salute if I dared, to all those who serve in such ways. It's not for the faint of heart to say, "I'll go." Put on a uniform, obey hard orders, leave what is known and safe and loved in peace time or, more particularly, during wars. I might not have always agreed with the policies of the government that put these people in harm's way, but I not only have no beef with those who sacrificially go, but I am humbled by them.

So, along with all those who celebrate your service, who are sons and daughters of the Revolutionary war to every war since, I celebrate and honor you. I'm grateful. I admit, I'm sorry you had to go (oh, how I wish there would be no more war, but I know--as He knows--that as long as there's sin in this world, people will fight!), but I'm very glad we could count on you to do so when we needed you.

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