Memorial Day

May 25, 2009 at 1:30 pm (Life) (, , )

My mother is the first and only person in our family to serve in the military. She never emphasized a strong commitment to our country, serving it or pushing for the somewhat brainless devotion many people seem to have where the US military is concerned. Growing up, I was never off on US holidays because I was enrolled in the German school system and thus immersed in a very different tradition.

All I knew about Memorial Day was that it was a three-day-weekend. I would get to see my mother more often, she would be home when I got back from school and that made me happy. I never thought to ask why she became very quiet and reserved and continues to do so. It is only over the last few years that I have become more aware of some of the US holidays.

I am lucky. I do not personally know anyone who has been critically injured or died somewhere in deserts and swamps while bearing arms in combat.  My mother and most of her acquaintances are high-ranking enough that they do not serve directly in the field. I have met several younger soldiers still scarred by their experience out in Iraq, though. I did cry when a young servicewoman allowed for the transport of her deployed, now deceased, husband’s body to Ramstein be filmed and broadcasted after Obama lifted the ban on this. I sat with my mother as we watched an airplane crash into the Pentagon with the feeling of sickness in my stomach; at the time, no one was aware of the fact the destroyed section had been empty. All we knew was that members of the military my mother knew worked in that building.

I remember hearing Bush announce a “crusade” on terror and realizing for the very first time that people were going to die in a futile effort, people my mother worked with, parents of children I had played with. In Germany, I live near a base with a high rotation of deployment. When I briefly attended the DoD high school, it was common for a classmate or more to miss school for a day because a parent was to be deployed for the second or third time. Looking back at my mother’s period of deployment to Kuwait, I never realized how dangerous her situation really was. She never spoke of certain things, like the fact she was usually in full combat armor and carried a weapon wherever she went.

I gather Memorial Day is often misconstrued as just another day off. In the thrall of a rare three day weekend, people forget why exactly this day has been given off, why schools are closed and why many flags hang at half-mast. The people I know don’t forget, but it is never wrong to point it out again.

Here’s to our servicemen and servicewomen who bravely laid down their lives for our country. Here’s to the men and women in the sweltering deserts cleaning up messes they never intended to make. Here is to parents, husbands, wives, children, aunts and uncles who leave their families behind to heed the call of duty. I cannot find the passage our Jewish military community would recite every Shabbat service in honor of those soldiers who had fallen and still fall, but one part in particular plays as a loop in my head.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

I hope there will – one day – come a time when Memorial Day will only commemorate those who have fallen, when war is a thing of the past. While I know this is unrealistic, I cannot help but hope that it shall come to pass.

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1 Comment

  1. Britni (VadgeWig) said,

    This is a beautiful post, Dani. ❤

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