It Comes Again

you won’t see my tears–or hear any choking sounds–they do exist

Long ago I rolled many important “anniversaries” into one acknowledgment of sorrow and gratitude and memories as numerous as the stars. At first, it saved my sanity to do it this way. It evolved into a more loving salute to them and to myself.

Veterans Day. To many it means nothing; ho hum another reason for a sale…gee why don’t those people forget it and move on…I hate soldiers cause they are fools/baby killers/or my favorite–who the hell cares?

I care and so do many others. We will never forget. This is no time for brain farts or any other flippant remark that shows ignorance.

My father: WW2 and Korea. Because he was first generation American, he was not allowed to serve in the European theater. He served in the Pacific theater instead. Lest we forget…his generation fought a war to keep aggressors from destroying this country and remaking it in their images…think about it…Japan and Germany squabbling over territorial rights in the USA. The American people being punished for their religion, defiance towards the rulers, ethnicity, or any number of “ya don’t meet our requirements for being allowed to live.”

Yeah, it happened a long time ago…but it has given this country and its people years of life.

 My first husband: Vietnam. He is a Marine, who was seriously wounded and died several months after returning stateside. We married just days before he left…I was fortunate to have those last months with him. His family adopted me into their clan in a beautifully spiritual ceremony…the feeling of being surrounded and infused with love is a gift that I’ve done my best to protect and to honor.

He was a tall, strong man with a wickedly funny sense of humor. Part of the reason we jumped into loving each other. We laughed when life was unbearably hard and we were drained–a coping mechanism is what it’s called today. To all of us it was our defense, our shield if you will, enabling us to function even if it was by rote.

My younger brothers: Vietnam. I remember when we were little how much they enjoyed their little cars and the fantasy trips they took…zooming here and there and in the trees on the way to their destinations.

Destinations…death for both. The majority of the remains of one are still in that country; his name is on the Wall. I say that with no pride, a black wall with far too many names is but a symbol of their losses…not being alive means you don’t watch your bride walk down the aisle to you, fix up a small apartment and call it home, move into a house cause a child is going to be born. No grass gets cut, no meatloaf is enjoyed, no hangovers from the occasional night out with the guys–most of them didn’t make it home either.

Permission was withheld for me to accompany his remains home and be there for my parents while they laid a son to rest. Experienced in country nurses begged for permission to pee let alone leave the country…so I held the hands of the wounded and whispered to them of their recovering and held them when they died and never, but never, did they see my tears. Tears came later when the numbness slowly evaporated…no matter how hard we tried to be tough, some of those wet ones would leave our eyes and we would feel foolish and angry and hopeless.

Second brother came home and had a mostly good life. Being a Marine on foot patrol…injuries that showed, problems that surfaced years later. Agent Orange does wonderful things–strips the foliage and strips layers of sensitive skin. ‘Cause it wasn’t everyone whose skin burned…why, it made it safe. He died from brain cancer…the one many men are dying from and all were exposed to it.

“Permission to return fire, sir.” “Permission denied, you are in a friendly area.” “Sir, those snipers are not friendly; repeat. Permission to return fire.” “Permission denied.” …sob! “Return fire, men” Formalities done to cover ass; the request was almost always made when they were already returning fire…probably saved lives and severe wounds.

SO: Vietnam. It took us awhile to work out boundaries and limits. Two vets, one house? Made life interesting. Times of joy, times of fears. Took turns, they did, on shattering our peace and trust and hopes. He struggles at times with his memories. Hand to hand is not an easy thing to handle during different phases of your life…knowing it was war time does little to soothe a hurting heart. He became a father and part of him knew that the fathers of the dead most likely never knew what happened to their sons. It was not hanging on to bitterness; it was sadness that war did such things to human beings.

Me: Vietnam. Two tours, Army nurse, in country. In country–source of perverse pride. We got dirty, didn’t shave our legs, accepted exhaustion as a way of life…did shave the armpits, though. When ya lean over a patient the last thing ya want them seeing is hairy pits. Lol…some of them later said how wonderful it was…so we shaved the pits even if we couldn’t see most of the hair, which is when we asked one of the others to do it. Hell, ya can get used to doing most anything. One of the hardest for me, though, was the request to touch my blond hair…they knew they were going to die and they wanted something/anything to remind them of home. They touched, my heart hardened after awhile. It does that, ya know, when guys your own age or younger die in agony.

To all of us…I’m proud to be in the company of people who have appreciation for life and freedom.

So…did you guess when I was crying? When I was choking on typing the words about their lives and their deaths? You shouldn’t have. It’s saved for the walk to their graves, hearing TAPS at any time, seeing the multitude of flags; big ones lining the avenue and the small ones on the graves. Seeing very few of the older ones; their numbers decimated by age…the frail ones are the first to stand when the flag is carried past them…while younger males and females take another drag and twitter at a stupid joke. Non-Veterans they are…they should care but don’t…hey they are at least at the parade, right?

We Will Never Forget. Someone has to remind others of the sacrifices made by men and women…it may come in handy one day when some hard choices will have to be made, and made with a nod to honor.