So today in church we said a prayer for all the service members who paid the ultimate price. No it is not Happy Memorial Day to me, it is not happy at all. I busied myself with the coffee hour set up and take down. It was not my day but the woman who was supposed to do it had to alter plans and asked me to take over so sure, I can help.
Deacon P comes up to me and says “How goes it?” OK how can I say this without starting to cry, Memorial Day sucks thanks for asking. No I did not say that out loud, instead I hear myself saying “Deacon, Memorial Day is hard for me. I lost two friends in the war and many others did not come home with us.” Deacon looked at me and said “Wait you were in the service?” I told him I retired after 23 years and he looked quite a bit surprised. Hmm not sure how this was not common knowledge, you know the military service thing.
He reminded me to remember the happy times and I clarified what happens is that I cannot stop thinking of the widows and the kids that were left behind. It is a complicated sort of story but basically it was a fratricide and while I did warn someone it was going to happen they did not do anything because they thought I was exaggerating. Welcome in survivors guilt. Every Memorial Day I doubt myself and my actions, could I have stopped it? Reality no I could not. I told the right people they refused to act, it is on them in reality but can I tell you it does not feel that way. No I do not say a word of that to the Deacon, my life is already a hot mess no point in bringing in the sordid past to make things a tad more complicated.
What I saw when I told him that I lost two friends in war was another parishioner looking at us. Now we were in the kitchen when the exchange took place so if I wanted privacy I needed to tell the Deacon that. But I really don’t care who hears the story it was just strange that this one particular person appeared to be eavesdropping. I shrugged it off after all we were in the kitchen, I WAS blocking the dishwasher so the woman might have been a bit stuck. We move positions and the Deacon leaves and I continue with clean up. We get the whole place done an I am about to leave with the kids.
The woman approached me and said “Hey look I am sorry I had no idea that you were actually a veteran and that you lost friends. I am sorry are you going to be all right?” I assured her I would be, it was just a day of sadness is all and she patted my shoulder as I went to leave. I walked away angry at myself and at the situation. Yes I should be over it right now but no I am not. I mean 10 years later and I still wake up screaming on the night it happened.
So the story goes on and those of us that survived carry on the memories of those who did not. Please I am begging, as a combat veteran myself, be gentle with service members during this holiday. It is a day of reverence and true sadness so give them support if they struggle. We lost many brothers and sisters due to war, we lost a bunch more when we came home to suicide. We remember them ALL on this day so please support veterans and if you think there is a problem encourage them to talk to someone. Death is inevitable in war but it is not inevitable when we return home. You might be the one to help so please take that risk.