Memorial day: What if?
We all anticipate this “holiday” all winter as it marks, bbq, bikinis and beach days. We dream of longer days, sun-kissed skin, a three day weekend and drinks with friends. For some, however this day embodies less sunshine and swimsuits and is flagged with grief, sacrifice, and loss.
The actual definition of Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day is: “An American Holiday, which honors men and who died while serving in the U.S. Military. “
While we’ve lost nearly 10,000 service men and women to the War on Terror, over seas, we lose approximately 8,030 a YEAR here at home, on our patriotic, hot dog eating, bbq’n soil. That is 22 a day, times 365 days a year. In ONE year, we lose nearly as manly men as ten years in war, COMBINED.
These men and woman have endured such deep physical and physiological wounds when returning home. Many of them have wounds you CANNOT see. Leaving them vulnerable and misunderstood to those of us who do not know the signs and symptoms.
It is easy, for all of us, to extend compassion to the veteran in the wheelchair with the American Flags sticking out of his backpack and obvious signs of true patriotism. We hold doors for these men, we pick up the tab for them, and feel genuine compassion and thankfulness for the depth of their sacrifice for our freedom.
The men, who are quietly, secretly struggling are the men who carry on with their lives with no obvious evidence of “battle wounds”. These are men, we don’t see. These are the men, who become the statistic. These are numbers 10, 12, 14, of the 22 a DAY. These men are often misunderstood and labeled as “drunks”, obnoxious, lazy, unmotivated, non-compassionate, and arrogant. They find themselves abusing substances to cope with the visions they have of the loss of their fellow service members and innocent lives. They find themselves wondering why they were spared?
These men, come home to a society who sues a business over a hot cup of coffee and suburbs filled with The Jones’s going into debt to compete with The other Jones’s. A wasteful society often blanketed under “freedom”, and abundance. They ask themselves ” for what?” Their friends died, for what? Is this freedom?
As a society, when our neighbor, coworker or friend from church loses a loved one, we extend grace, and expect them to have a rough journey ahead. We dismiss their miss use of alcohol or unorganized chaotic home, as “grief”. We pull them out of bed on dark days, and support them when things get ugly.
In law enforcement, fire departments and EMT careers, we also see much grace extended after a rough day on the job. More often than not, these employees are given leave to cope with the emotional turmoil they endure after a rough call or losing a fellow coworker in the line of duty. We as a community rally around them, and support them with understanding and compassion.
Our service men and women, endure days stated above for MONTHS at a time. They fear for their life in conjunction with continually watching their close friends die. That would be the equivalent to us, experiencing the worst car accidents of our lives, over, and over and over again, watching our friends and loved ones die.
These heros return home and we as a society EXPECT them to be the same. We expect them to adjust normally. We expect them to drink appropriately and mesh right back into competing with the Jones’s, working a 9-5, and moderately abusing their bodies with fast food and the american dream lifestyle.
What if, on this Memorial Day, WE as a society, tried to understand THEM? We, extended grace in the form of love, and understanding. WE educated OURSELVES on what they are going through and what they experienced. We, expressed our gratitude for their sacrifices in the grieving the loss of their fellow servicemen. What if we educated ourselves on the signs and symptoms of PTSD and suicide? What if we, out of our gratitude and memorial for lost service members, loved on the ones who did come home, loved on the ones who TRIED To save those men and woman? What if we showed more gratitude? Can we drowned them in appreciation?
My pledge to you, as a bbq’n, bike riding, bikini wearing memorial day celebrator is to pour out gratitude and extend understanding. Let’s as a society, welcome these men home, continually with grace and appreciation. Lets, as a society honor the fallen by taking care of their fellow men.