An elementary school friend sent me this editorial which I am sharing with you on this blog post:
“A U.S. sailor was reported to be the 3,000th death among coalition forces in the Afghanistan war since it began October 7, 2001. He died of medical complications. Many others who would not have previously survived are living with the consequences of battle. Communities are grappling with the deaths in new ways, too. Across Ohio short stretches of highway are being named. Longer than WWII and the Civil War combined, we grieve in a silent scream. Once denied photographs of our returning war dead, our small town papers now feature highway markers to remember the fallen. Red-eyed parents and schoolmates try to make sense of these lives cut short in a war only volunteers now fight. We are a nation who wishes not to suffer. There are no victory gardens, no draft and little or no real protest anymore. In lieu of taps – we plant metal markers with names and nicknames of our fallen appearing suddenly in our rear-view mirror. We honor one piece of highway knowing full well that if we honored every soldier who has died for the right, wrong or most inconvenient of wars – there would be not one shaft of sunlight shining on our memorial vacation get-a-way. So we grumble about the high price of gas, drive thru for some fast food and turn our minds off to the unpleasant realities as we check online for one more cute viral video of a dog howling at the moon. Click. Off.
Turn off your mind relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying…The Beatles”
I replied to her with this email which I think you will find self-explanatory
Thank you so much for sending this to me. Besides being well-written, your timing was impeccable as this is Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is Remembrance Day for me, a day filled with nostalgia.
I wonder if you recall Florence Andersen, our principal at Joseph H. Brown Elementary School. Each day before Memorial Day she would have us assemble in the playground area while she read Flanders Field. I remembered it word for word for many years. Thinking back, I wonder how many of our teachers had lost husbands or loved-ones in World War II – or perhaps it had been even worse that a love one had returned damaged and they had to make difficult choices. My guess is that, in the ethic of that time, they supported their men.
My father was killed in the Normandy Invasion. He and my birth mother were unwed and her father refused to allow her to keep me, so I was placed in an orphanage in Norristown, Pa. Fortunately, her father specified that I was to be placed with a family that valued education as, for some reason, they thought I would be bright. I guess I did inherit favorable genes. Jack and Gertrude were great parents to me. I was only after they died that my brothers and sisters found out that I had been adopted – I told them soon after the funerals at a Thanksgiving dinner at my brother John’s house.
I enlisted in the Air Force in the early 60s to keep faith with the father I never knew and to express my appreciation. On a trip to France many years later I went to the US Military cemetery at Normandy. I really lost it there. Some time later Gertrude had discovered the identity of my birth mother and offered to give me her name. In a fit of resentment I told her that Gertrude was and would always be my “real Mother” and Jack was my “real Father”, and if my birth mother had wanted to find out where I was or what had become of me she would have done so. My “real Mother” did tell me that my birth mother’s parents were wealthy industrialists and my birth mother was a trustee of Ursinus University. I am guessing my birth mother has died by now and that her history will remain forever closed to me.
I beg your indulgence, but nostalgia is part of having served in the military and experiencing the death of friends. I never experienced deaths first-hand as I was a Russian linguist in Air Force intelligence and never served in live combat, but I have friends who served and died. You may be aware that over 50% of our January graduating class from Lincoln High School did not make it past the end of the Vietnam War. I have only 3 or 4 school friends that are still living, including Joe , Charles , George , and Daniel . So, I find myself somewhat rootless.
The benefit of rootlessness is that I have reached out and made friends and I have stayed close with my siblings. I am blessed with a loving wife and friend, two wonderful and talented children and 4 grandchildren, with one more on the way – My daughter’s first.
War is indeed hell. But unfortunately, given the dark side of human nature, it is too often a necessity.
Thank you again for sending me your item that you have posted in your paper. Have a wonderful Memorial Day.
For those of you who served in the Military or lost love ones, I wish to thank you for your service on behalf of a grateful nation. I was born immediately after what has been described as the greatest generation. I know in my heart that theirs was the greatest generation, but I have tried to keep the faith and build on the foundation they have prepared for my generation, for my children, and their children’s generations. May you have a wonderful Memorial or Remembrance Day.