Memorial Day — one of my favorite times of the year. I love to take time out to honor those who serve in the military. They do a job that I can’t even imagine doing; I don’t know what it must be like to be sent to a far off war zone and fight for your life. I admire those greatly who have the ability to take on the job. I feel safer for their efforts and very thankful.
My father and father-in-law (English) fought in WWII, real to me at 68, but as far off as the Civil War for kids in school. In Britain, especially, we’ve visited several WWII sites, including Dover Castle where many operations were coordinated. 1939 saw the tunnels under the castle’s walls converted first into an air-raid shelters and then later into a military command center and underground hospital. The evacuation of Dunkirk was directed from here. More tunnels were added as needed to facilitate military operations. Eventually, there were over three miles of tunnels going deep down into the chalky cliffs, some still undiscovered — and unsafe. So much military memorabilia, planes, and other items used in wartime are on display here.
It makes World War II more real. The personal effects attest to the humanity that fought this massive and devastating war. My father was a navigator/bombardier in some of the later flights over Germany, and see the old airplanes, I more deeply admire how much and how often men put their lives on the line for freedom and the annihilation of an evil empire.
How war has changed over the decades since WWII! Enemies don’t wear uniforms, don’t display their flags and insignia, don’t observe rules of warfare, or consider the Geneva Convention provisions. Was the Korean War even called a war, because everything else since, has been an action, an operation, a conflict. But they are wars to the people who go over there to fight — some dying, some returning with wounds they will bear forever. Yet, they still sign up, they still go to military academies, they still are willing to put their lives on the line.
About two years ago, a friend of my daughter’s, who served four years in the Marines, committed suicide. All his friends were devastated and still wonder why. This is the sad truth of what’s happening to veterans today. Another friend’s brother has tried to commit suicide a couple of time and still struggles — yet he was brave enough to defuse bombs and mines in three tours of duty. I find it so sad that more help isn’t available for some of the vets who are dying daily by their own hand. So the price of war is high, too, even for those who come back alive. I pray that they will find the care they need and the peace they seek.
To me the epitome of the patriotism and military service is seeing soldiers walk around Arlington Cemetery placing flags at each grave stone and saluting that soldier who has passed. The dignity and honor shown by the living to those who have been a part of the same military family seems so personal. I think only others in the military can truly appreciate what their departed brethren went through to reach the hallowed ground of Arlington. The Honor Guard who watch over the Unknown Solider, truly display the deep respect for those who have given their lives for this country. Whenever I see a man or woman in uniform I think, “This is patriotism in action.” The real deal.