As a child, I remember being fearful that my brother would be drafted into service when he grew up. Why? My memories are sandwiched between uncles who served in North Africa and the Pacific Theater in the early 1940s, and hippie-looking elementary school teachers who’d play anti-war songs on their guitars during music time. My dad served in the Aleutian Islands in WWII (he told me he was so close to Japan, he could throw a Coke bottle at the “enemies”), and my mom served as a nurse for the Women’s Army Corps stateside.
In 1975, when I was nine, she volunteered to help Operation Babylift in San Francisco when Saigon fell and thousands of Vietnamese orphans needed to find adoptive families. She told me that the children were so beautiful, many with green and blue eyes – but did not bring home a brother or sister for us as requested.
About that same time, my brother remembers going with my mom to visit her friend, Helen, who’s son Bobby had just returned from Vietnam. He had the window open and was looking through the scope of his rifle onto the freeway below, and invited him to look through the sight.
In high school, I was a pen pal with a Marine who was stationed in Beirut in 1983 and lost several friends in the barracks bombing. A good friend and classmate, Marine Capt. Randy Guzman was the Marine who was killed by the OKC bomber, and another good friend just retired as an Army Colonel after serving for 29 years and seeing too much.
So no, my childhood wasn’t as connected to active military like other generations before me but I was aware of war, and my dad ALWAYS proudly put our flag out up on this holiday. I was thinking about if kids and young adults today understand why Memorial Day is so much more than the neighborhood pool opening up or it being a three-day weekend.
See, even if we don’t have a direct connection, this holiday is relevant to current generations when you consider the thousands upon thousands of parents, spouses, siblings, children and friends of the men and women lost or wounded just since the Global War on Terror that started 9-11-2001.
According to Watson.brown.edu’s article:
- Nearly 7,000 US military personnel have died.
- More than 53,700 US soldiers and sailors have been officially listed as wounded in the major post-9/11 war zones.
- Many other US soldiers have become amputees.
- In its most recent report, the Congressional Research Service found that more than 300,000 troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
- Suicide is also an urgent and growing problem among the veterans of the post-9/11 wars. There were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016, a rate that is 1.5 times greater than that of the non-veteran population.
- These statistics make that 151-year-old holiday a bit more relevant, right? This is about great grandma and grandpa you’ve never met, but it’s also about the peacekeepers we have lost just this year.
So, I ask you to please join me today, on Memorial Day, as part of The National Moment of Remembrance Act, at 3 pm, for one minute to pay respect to the men and women who died in service of our country.
From the Raving team, our thoughts are with the families who have lost and our sincere thanks to all current and retired veterans.