when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for May 25th, 2009

Before I finish up with the “top 5 of 34” list of cases, I want to stop for a minute and share some Memorial Day thoughts with you.

I am just beginning to understand Memorial Day.  I’ve been celebrating Memorial Day all my life.  This is my 57th Memorial Day.  I’m the child of a World War II veteran, a World War II purple heart winner, a man who died at age 78 with shrapnel still in his skull and under his left knee cap.  A man who rarely spoke of the war.

Not only am I a child of a World War II veteran, I’m a child of the Vietnam Era, a kid who witnessed the Tet Offensive on TV while studying for Poli Sci 101 tests, a kid who understands all about Kent State, a kid who still cries when she hears Crosby Stills & Nash’s Four Dead in Ohio.

And maybe that’s why I am just beginning to understand Memorial Day.

Growing up in a Texas town, I was raised into patriotism.  To stand when the flag went by.  To place my hand on my heart.  To say the pledge of allegiance.  To sing the Star Spangled Banner – even the high part.  Even in the midst of the Vietnam War – the context of which I really didn’t understand – I still celebrated Memorial Day.  And I thought I understood.  But I didn’t.

 My dad has been dead 10 years now.  He was a bombardier on a B-17, a plane in the Memphis Belle’s squadron.  He was critically injured at 20 when a shrapnel canister exploded in the top turret, where he was manning the gun after the top turret gunner on his crew was killed.  I never thanked him for serving in World War II.  I’ve never thanked anyone for serving in World War II or any other war.

 But thanking is not what Memorial Day is about.  Because those who served in World War II, most of them anyway, didn’t understand Memorial Day either.  And they didn’t do it for thanks.  Mostly, they did it because they were young and were “supposed to” – either compelled by their culture or the draft.  They were young.  They were invincible.  And they served.  And some came home and others didn’t.

Understanding is what Memorial Day is all about.  And when you understand — when you really understand, you will live a life full of  memorial days.  A life full of remembering.  A life full of  thanking.

 If you grew up within the Vietnam Era, you learned from the wrong signals.  Vietnam vets were not fighting for our freedom, our future.  They were fighting for … well, who knows?  Each Vietnam vet had a reason for being there – be it cultural or the draft.  But the overall rationale… I’m not sure any of us yet understands.  The war was tragic.  But the Viet Cong did not threaten my way of life…or sure didn’t seem to.  That domino theory just seemed some wierd kind of rationalization to me, although it made perfect sense to my dad, who used to say that if “they” had left McArthur alone, “we” wouldn’t be in this “mess”.

 Thirty years past high school American History, I am just beginning to understand World War II and thus just beginning to understand Memorial Day.  I’m just beginning to understand Pearl Harbor and Normandy, Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest, the Manhattan Project, and what my Daddy did.

 For all those individuals like my Dad – the “America, love it or leave it!” generation:  Thanks!  You preserved my right to question decisions like Vietnam and Iraq and you have my undying gratitude.

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