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Memories

Today's post is a long one, but I hope you stick with me and read it all. Memorial Day is one of our most special days. Many consider it the start of summer--and hot dogs, potato salad and the likes are a traditional part of the day. That isn't what it is all about, however. Let me share with you my first awareness of the depth of emotion that comes with Memorial Day.

I was maybe seven years old, certainly no older and possibly a bit younger. My grandmother had allowed me to spend a week with her, without my siblings, and I was experiencing one of the best weeks of my young life. A parade was scheduled and the excitement was intense. I stood beside her and thought that everyone must have come out for this parade--the whole town. I was used to what I thought of as "my parade" at home. It involved zoo animals, marching bands, little cars and motorcycles ridden by Shriner's. I was anticipating the same here.

Someone said "Here they come!" and I waited. They did come, men in uniform, all manner of uniform and all ages. Some groups had many men and others a few. The crowd was silent except for applause and my young mind did not understand--where was the "fun" stuff? Why were there tears in so man eyes?

Quiet like I'd never experienced descended upon the crowd. An old soldier was being pushed down the center of the street and then toward the gazebo in the center of the park. His uniform was unlike any of the others. My grandmother stood silently, tears rolling down her cheeks and I took her hand, but she did not seem to notice--her eyes focused on the man in the wheelchair.

The men who had already passed were lined up on either side of the path leading to the gazebo and as the wheelchair passed, each man perfectly still and saluted. The old man's wheelchair reached the gazebo and, as he was turned to face the crowd, he saluted the men who lined the path.

People around me cried, some smiling through the tears. I did not know at that time what I was witnessing, but knew it was special--an important event. Later, my grandmother explained. The soldiers were men who had fought in various wars. Veterans they were called. It was these men (their were no women at that point-at least in that parade) who fought to give me freedom. It was how I was able to go to school and church and walk down the street and play in the park.

She explained to me that there were many more who had not come home from fighting--they had died trying to fight for me. I asked about the old man and found out he was the only one still alive in this small town who had fought in WWI. He was the only one left to represent those who had fought and died in that war. Several of her brothers had fought in that war.

I didn't fully understand then, but have gained understanding since. Today, on a Memorial Day a couple decades later, many more men (and women) have given their lives to allow me the freedoms I have--given you the freedoms you have. Let us all take time from our hot dogs and potato salad to remember these souls and give them our thanks.

***
I have some things I want to share with you today. The first is a wonderful blog that features a must-read tribute. Not all soldiers died in a war--but many face another kind of war, that of homelessness. Please stop by
http://20for1.wordpress.com/the-invisible-heros-the-veterans/
when you leave here and read the wonderful post at The Invisible America.

Many of those soldiers who do return alive in body continue to fight a war called PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The war has never ended for these soldiers--it haunts their waking moments and follows them into sleep each night. A wonderful blog I often visit, can give you insight into these veterans. It is called PTSD, A Veteran's Perspective and is located here:
http://ptsdasoldiersperspective.blogspot.com/

For a list of military memoirs, stop by:
http://www.woodfieldpublishing.co.uk/index1.html
and for a list of books divided by age, from the youngest children through adult, visit:
http://www.theholidayzone.com/veterans/books.html

I would like to leave you with this video:




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12 comments:

Marvin D. Wilson said...

Wonderful tribute post. Great video too. I have an uncle still living who is a WWII vet. The stories he told me when I was a boy growing up about experiences on the front lines in combat are still vivid haunting memories. Such bravery - facing death every moment, pushing forward in spite of terror gripping your gut, seeing comrades blown apart right next to you. The courage of those men who laid their lives on the line to preserve the freedoms we enjoy is sacred and a testament to the kind of valor and integrity humanity is capable of.

The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

Joyce Anthony said...

Thanks, Marvin. My dad was also in WWII. He wouldn't talk about it much--I can only remember maybe two times. Those were the only times I ever saw him cry.

Deb Hockenberry said...

Hi Joyce,
This was a fantastic post. Everyonce in a while we all need this reminder. It brought back all the memories of my uncles in WWII. One of them was a guard at Neuremberg prison in Germany. I hope I spelled that right. It also reminded me of what my niece went through. She got home from Iraq a few years ago (luckily she didn't come home in a box).

Jan Verhoeff said...

I've known veterans from both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the current wars... Tears fill my eyes each time I think of those who have fought for my freedom. Tears continue to fill my eyes as I think of all we've given up to leaders of this nation who forgot what FREEDOM was all about, and to the current administration who hasn't a clue what FREEDOM and LIBERTY mean. Thank you for this tribute - I'll be posting my own tribute at http://janverhoeff.com/blog - as I finish writing it this morning.

Thanks again for sharing this!

unwriter said...

Thank you for this. I watced the degradation of the vets from 'Nam and the shame they went through when they returned home. These vets went through hell and high water only to return to a nation that put them down. That is not right!!!! As a vet, I greatly appreciate this post. I was in the Navy and the ship I was on says it all...

U.S.S Independence

Nina M. Osier said...

This is a special day, indeed. When I grew old enough to understand such things, my mom's father honored me by talking about the World War I experiences (horrific for a 19-year-old island boy from Maine!) that haunted him for the rest of his days, and caused him a 6-year hospitalization for what we would now call PTSD when he reached middle age. My own dad was in and out of the VA throughout my girlhood, thanks to the Pacific Theater in World War II. For him that war ended with his death, almost 60 years later. War not only costs the man or woman who fights it; for those who come home, it goes on costing both veteran and family for a lifetime.

Is it worth the cost? Grandpa knew it was, and so did Dad. Blessings! To all who have served, I love and appreciate you!

Vivian Zabel said...

As I stated in my blog, http://vivianzabel.blogspot.com, I believe we need to recognize what veterans and currently serving military did and do for us.

Beautiful post, Joyce.

Cheryl said...

Excellent post Joyce. Too often it seems holidays like these are overlooked when so many are opposed to the necessity of war.

A couple of years ago we lost a high school classmate in Iraq. He laid down his life so that others in his unit might survive. I can barely type this without crying over it again.

While we hadn't seen one another in many years, John will always have my utmost respect, and my prayers remain with his family--a wife and two young children--who along with John, made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

Cheryl

Tristan Benz - Maiden America - www.maidenus.com said...

Beautiful post. I grew up near a military base (now turned university). And I now live with military all around. Through my business, I have tried to support military wives. Sadly, CPSIA has destroyed these jobs. When I see a soldier, I say "thank you." But, I cannot so easily recognize a soldier's wife. And I think they are under-recognized and appreciated for their great sacrifices, too. If anyone wants to help support those of us trying to show our respect for these special women in our country, I hope you'll go to www.amendthecpsia.com and view the hearings with expert testimony that will make your eyes bug out - how wrong - how hypocritical CPSIA is...and how many moms / small businesses that support the wives of those who serve our country are losing valuable jobs / revenue for NO good reason. I say - it's time to stop using marketing spin words like "green" and our "children" to serve politicians' interests and,instead, it's time to remember those who serve this country. The soldiers AND their wives. And those of us who are eager to show them the respect and support they truly deserve.

I'm glad I stopped by - it's a beautiful tribute.

Diane J. said...

Thank you for the reminder. I think I'll find a parade and take my kids. When they ask why there's no "fun" stuff, I'm going to explain it like your grandmother did, she said it well.

Carol said...

You blog made me cry, bringing back proud thoughts and memories of my Dad, a WWII vet, back on this day to remember him and his fellow soldiers.

Wonderful links and video. Salute to them, and to you for reminding us.

Joyce Anthony said...

Thanks for all the wonderful comments! Marvin, I believe those who serve are the most selfless humans I have ever met. Deb, give your niece a hug from me please! Freedom and liberty will continue to exist, Jan--we can't and won't allow them to die! Ron, you are correct, the Vietnam vets often were treated worse at home than on the battlefield :-( Nina--how true your post-so many of those who fought never leave the war behind-I don't believe any come home unchanged :-( Vivian, your post at your blog was exceptional. Cheryl, sometimes we tend to forget the young ones fighting now--thank you for reminding us and Tristan, I salute the work you are doing. Wives and children need care that most of us do not understand. I'm glad there are those like you to support them. Diane, that would be wonderful--my grandmother was a smart woman. Carol, your dad may have fought with mind--thank you for your kind words.

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