Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day from a Soldier's Mother's Perspective

This day is a little different for me now, than it once was. I am guilty--guilty, guilty, guilty--of looking forward to Memorial Day, in the past, as a Monday off. A 3-day weekend. How often it is reflected, at the New Year, as the next paid holiday most of us get.

That was then.

Now I have a son who has served two tours in a war. Through  his service, I have come to know and meet and love dozens more who have served by his side. He is only still on this earth because of their quick responses, their anger, fear, adrenaline, and determination not to lose a brother. Likewise, there are some that owe their lives to him.

I have met hundreds more veterans who have fought and served in Iwo Jima, World War II, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and more.

And today I know that they stop, and they remember, and they grieve for those they lost.

I grieve with them. I weep for lost soldiers, and the pain of those that remember, first hand, their courage and service.

It is not just "my" soldiers that touch me. I am gripped by the tombstone of a civil war soldier, and naturally, I think of his mother. There is little I have in common with her, but I know what she felt when she said goodbye to her son and watched him leave his home, until she couldn't see him any more. I know her relief when he returned. I know her love for him, and her heartache at his experiences, and her hope for his future. We are over 200 years apart in history, but I know her, just a little bit.

When I finish up my thoughts here, I will gather up, as I do every year now, and I will walk a cemetery. I will straighten leaning flags, and I will speak, out loud, the names of veterans and fallen soldiers.

My doing so will not make much of a difference in this world: it will not prevent a tear, or ease anyone's heartache, but it will make me feel better. I like to think that speaking their names aloud, 50 or 100 or more years after they are gone just matters, somehow.

I like to think their mothers would have liked it.