Today we memorialize (remember) those who gave their lives in service to our country. Veterans Day is a different day, celebrating all veterans, living and deceased. Memorial Day focuses on those “made the ultimate sacrifice” by giving their lives in the course of their service.
This post is dedicated to the men and women who have served our country, who have lived through the horrors of war, as well as the atrocities of politics in times of peace. While their bodies may have come home and they appear to have survived in tact, the reality is quite the opposite; they sacrificed parts of themselves “back there” and have never gotten them back. They have splintered, fractured, shattered to pieces, then healed briefly, only to have it happen again and again. These are the walking wounded, whose scars you cannot see, whose wounds are fresh and raw. Even though the war was over long ago, their personal battle has only begun.
The battle for a lifeline to sanity; a battle to remember and another one to forget. Fighting an enemy so insidious you cannot see it, even when it’s right in front of you. You cannot hear it approaching or even have time to formulate a fighting chance.
It’s the haunting of a soul, a harbinger of dark and unwelcome memories, a tsunami of emotion and visions so real, the smoke burns their throats, causing tears to well up in their eyes. This is the daily life of a soldier, back from the horrors of war.
The walking wounded, some of whom would not be able to recover from those wounds and would often find a way to end the pain, in their own time, on their own terms. But is it really their own terms or is it the illness, the toxic by-product of war, of taking another human being’s life, be they the enemy or not?
Taking a life. Taking lives. Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly until it becomes normal. What happens when the war is over and normal is now horrific? What happens when you fight in the Vietnam War and come home? How about any of the wars since? We all know what happened and if you don’t, Google that shit. You will be outraged. How easily they are forgotten will only continue to distress and horrify you.
So, for today and for all days, let’s remember those who carry burdens we could not imagine in our worst nightmares, live with mortal wounds to their souls that may never disappear completely, only be dulled or buried, willed to be forgotten, only to rise again when sleep comes or the sun rises or they are triggered and even though they don’t want to, they remember.
The war they came home from is not the war they are fighting today; they are fighting the ghosts of those they fought against and alongside. They are fighting the willful ignorance of men in power who refuse to acknowledge the staggering loss of life happening AFTER THE WAR HAS ENDED.
The ripple effect of these men and women leaving holes in hearts, in their families’ lives; children losing a parent or sometimes both parents, leaving only questions with no answers, pain with no prescription or cure. Tomorrows that will never come and yesterdays that will live forever, untouched by time and perfectly preserved.
Forever beautiful, forever young and burning brightly, alive and full of promise.
Their sacrifice financed our freedom.
My thanks and never-ending support to those who know and love their own Captain America, their own superhero in uniform – the family of a military service member. You all deserve your own post, but I didn’t want to make this one without recognizing your sacrifice and your service to your country. You, too, made the ultimate sacrifice. We owe you a debt we will never be able to repay.
Let’s just take a moment today to silently or loudly, with your soul or with your voice, send thanks to all those who are with us battling their demons daily and all those who wait for us on the other side.