His name was Jimmy. He was a mothers son. He was an only brother.
A lot of Barbecues take place this weekend. A lot of friends gather to party, enjoy a three-day weekend, attend parades, hang flags, and drink beer.
For some of the vets and active military who are drinking, it wasn’t just pulled out this weekend.
It betrays the untrained civilian eye who can’t recognize the hidden wounds of war.
Vets are remembering their tours of duty. Or they are trying to forget them.
They are remembering their fallen brothers and sisters. Or they are trying to forget – just for a moment.
They will never forget the fallen. They will never want to.
They are remember the faces. They are remembering the tears. The prayers.
They are remember the empty boots. The rifle. The helmet.
My earliest memories are of weeping. I have very few early memories and it seems ironic due to my chosen profession that my earliest ones would be of death.
I didn’t really understand. I only knew he was supposed to leave Vietnam in three days, but he volunteered for one last mission. He never came home.
They hugged her as she sobbed.
I remember feeling confused. I remember feeling sadness. I sat on the couch. I didn’t want to play. They gave me a drink. They tried to smile at me and tell me there were some games, or kids books.
My father remembered. He was a medic in WWII. There wasn’t a roll call at his funeral. He was the last of the 90th Division to die.
In 1969, we visited France.
He hugged the Frenchman, Henri Levaufre, whose town had been liberated by the 90th. Henri honored Americans who had fought by touring the battle grounds with them. We were one of the first to visit him. We were not the last.
Many toured the places of death. The places of life.
He found the foxhole – the one that nearly took his life. He wept again. I was eleven years old. I didn’t understand. His friends died on that Hill 122. We walked on Normandy Beach and went into the pill boxes.
And he wept.
My mother made fun of him for crying so much. Theirs was not a marriage filled with compassion. Or trust. I didn’t understand the wounds of war then.
No one did.
Many still don’t. Hidden wounds. Lack of honor. Brave men don’t cry. Or do they? Soldiers don’t have hidden wounds. They’re not allowed to.
Wounds that bleed on the inside. Run with black blood and dark thoughts. They often take a long time to heal. They need to be open to heal.
The families know. The families remember.
Ours is a family of warriors. We fight the good fight. We serve God. We serve our country.
We wound. We love. We cry. We pray. We laugh.
We understand death.
We honor the fallen.
We remember this Memorial Day not with a party, but with a prayer.
Please keep our warriors safe in body, mind and spirit. Bring them home safely to the ones who love them. Surround them with Warrior Angels to keep them strong and safe. Comfort all those who mourn and grant us hope in an eternal life where we will never part again. In Jesus name.
I didn’t understand then. I do now.