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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memory

Somehow it is fitting that today is dreary and gray, rainy and humid. As I write this more men and women in Afganistan,Iraq and Libya are being written on the walls of the military fallen. We don't belong in those places in my opinion, anymore than we belonged in Vietnam or Korea but despite that men and women have answered our country's call to arms and we must honor their valor and devotion. For many of them it was the last voluntary act of their lives.

I grew up at a time when most of my uncles and my Dad and my brothers served voluntarily in the military, despite the fact that the draft still existed. Most of them were Navy but a couple of the uncles joined the Army and I can hear the joshing and teasing still among them. Some of the younger ones served in WWII but my Dad and a couple of the others were too old and had been too young for WWI. My Dad was going to reenlist in 1943 but he was told he'd be given a non- com rank that could be removed while he served and he could not afford to take such a chance financially with a wife and new baby back in DC so he did not go back. Fortunately, all came home and none were physically injured, nor to my memory severely mentally or emotionally injured.

Mom used to talk about her cousins and uncles who'd served during WWI--several of them died and one lost his legs. She used to speak of her young aunt who was to marry her soldier when he returned from war only to die in the influenza epidemic and be buried, instead, in her lovely wedding dress.

Of course the major war of which I was most cognizant was Vietnam. What a terrible time of protests and upheaval and men leaving the country,moving to Canada to avoid the draft. but many stayed and were drafted or enlisted and many came home disillusioned and emotionally spent. Some never recovered and took solace in the drugs that became so prevalent among the troops and in some quarters among the young back home. Others drank but many struggled with their demons and adjusted to life among the living while remembering the many they left behind dead on the battleground. I remember the horror the first time one of those dead was a name to which I could put a face. Younger than me--just about six months out of high school, the kid brother of a classmate. I was away at school when he came home and was buried but that summer I went and stood at his grave in disbelief. Another step in growing up--another step into adulthood, taken reluctantly and with tears because Bob would never get that chance.

After that whenever one of my students would come to school to see me after basic to strut proudly in his uniform, looking like a child to me still, but knowing he was no longer, something in me would remember Bob and pray, as I smiled and wished my student luck, that he would come back and grow up safely. Most of them did but a few did not and when I think of them I see them walking away so proud.

In our family on both sides the tradition of military service has died out. My brothers-in-law all served in Viet Nam and all are happily home and healthy. The war ended before my husband had to take his Naval commission after ROTC so he instead went into Peace Corps. Bill's cousin broke the Naval-Army tradition and served in the Air Force in Nam. None of the nephews or nieces have chosen the military, nor has our daughter. Many of our recent students have not gone and our school refused to allow any recruiters on campus during career day.

Attitudes have changed about the men and women who choose to serve. The big headline in today's paper is that a nearby town is celebrating agriculture this weekend. But one of Betsy's friends is in the Army--in intelligence --and she doesn't think she'll be sent into a war zone. I pray that is true. One of my friends has a son who has joined the Army--he hasn't been deployed as of yet. I think of him all the time and hope he won't be or that he will return safely in all ways if he is.

Today is a day of remembrance of those who have gone into battle and who have not returned. It isn't a day to remember those who are serving though I think of them daily and pray for our withdrawal from these lands in which we are bound and determined to have our democratic way. No, it is a day of mourning for the boys and girls who will no longer grow up and for their parents and siblings and wives and husbands and children who will never hold them again. In Memoriam--Thank you and Rest in Peace


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