Saturday, May 26, 2007

This Weekend is NOT just an excuse for a Bar-B-Q

As it is with millions of Americans, this weekend is a mixture of grief, pride and rememberance and even more millions of b-b-qs, beer drinking and such.

I am no exception, but in fact the grief most times exceeds all else. I have what is so aptly called, "Survivor's Grief ", although all the descriptions I have read, read like descriptions of something that no one would really understand unless they actually experience it.

I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

But, does it get better over the years? Well, maybe not better, but I guess you become used to it and treat it like you would an old friend that you really don't like to have around, but have learned to put up with.

I was going to write a long story, my story, but I just can't bring myself to do it. After all these years, I just can't do it. So... I will just post a few links for you to look at if you have the time this weekend. I won't have a lot of time myself as my oldest GrandSon is graduating from High School today and my Sweet Sarah and myself and a few of my old Vet buds are going to go and give him our send off and well wishes.

By the Way, he is reporting to the Navy in a couple of weeks for his basic seaman training. I had to talk him out of the Marines, because he is actually next in line to take care of Sweet Sarah when I kick the bucket, which may not be too far into the future. He agreed, but only after much discussion and me making him understand that he could still serve our Republic but keep his commitment to me and Sarah if he became a "Swabbie".

Being in the Navy is not without it's dangers and hardships but he has a much better chance of being able to survive to take care of and responsibility for Sweet Sarah than if he becomes a Marine or a Soldier. It took some of my war stories and my calling him on his word given to me a couple of years back to make him relent. Maybe he will thank me later or maybe he will curse me. No matter, it is the right decision for Sweet Sarah.

My next oldest GrandSon told him he would go in the Marines and "Do the real fighting for him". Is there is much competition between these young men? Do I encourage it...? You Bet!

My youngest GrandSon is eleven. We have not really talked much about service to our Republic as of yet, but he gets his real American History Lessons from me, as his public school education will not give these precious and important history lessons to him. So he gets his unofficial tutoring from me as his older brother and cousin have.

Ok, first thing I want ya'll to do is read these posts here, some of ya'll may have already read them last year, but they deserve another read.

I couldn't find a link for this so I'm going to post the whole thing, I recieved it in an email earlier. It puts a lot of things in perspecive for those of you who don't know any vets or if they are like most of us and don't talk about our past much.

With The Old Grunts
R J Del Vecchio
May 24, 2007

Being a Combat Photographer meant that you traveled around the war, working with different units at different times. And people might remember you, since not everyone got to see a guy with cameras crawling around in the midst of a hot firefight. So over the years, as organized reunions of war veterans have become common, I have been invited to attend several different unit reunions. Since I hold the grunts, those dirty, tired, war-weary young men of so long ago, in highest esteem, I am deeply honored to be accepted as a guest among them.

You might wonder who you see there, what they do, what they talk about. Well, you see stockbrokers, company presidents, former police chiefs, restaurant owners, teachers, and others who used their GI Bill benefits to continue their educations. And retired factory workers, carpenters, farmers, mechanics, etc, who didn’t continue in school but were part of the backbone of Labor. Men with wives of 35 yrs, men on their third divorce, men in good health, men crippled by age and the lasting effects of major wounds, and every one of them carrying some level of mental/emotional baggage, with moderate to severe effect on their lives. Some have high VA disability ratings, some won’t go to the VA at all.

They get together and the atmosphere of comradeship descends like a warm mist rolling in. They smile, shake hands firmly and long, slap backs hard, often embrace. They sit and talk about kids, grandkids, retirement, ailments, vacations. And about who has passed on since last time, and who couldn’t make it here this year. Eventually they talk about the Vietnamese teenage girl who warned them of the ambush waiting for them, or the time that a different ambush took out their best friend, or when the big helicopter’s rotor blast knocked over the nearby outhouse and they barely escaped the cloud of unimaginable filth that it blew over the area. Sometimes the talk will turn to those who they remember the clearest, and miss the most, and a little silence will follow. But there is happy reminiscing of the joys of canned peaches over C-ration pound cake, of showers and clean socks after weeks in the field, of the R&R in Bangkok or Sydney or Taipei .

Sometimes politics will come up. They are mostly conservative in political outlook, and very disappointed and upset that what they see as the lessons of Viet Nam were not learned by our elected leaders, who have led us into another terribly messy conflict in Iraq . And they all agree that those fighting today deserve the best equipment, the best leadership, and to not be hampered by the incredible burden of political considerations that restrict so much of their actions and put their every decision under microscopes far from the awful reality of war. None of them have much good to say about the media, either from their own war or the war today. A few say we should get out and let things go to hell, most think it has to be fought to a victory or their grandchildren will be fighting jihadists decades from now.

One young woman told me that she loved to come to the reunion, because it was the only time she ever saw her father so much at ease, the only time most of the lines on his face would disappear as he laughed and smiled with his friends. I explained that for most combat veterans, they are never really the same again, that there is a major part of their lives they cannot really express or share properly with even their families. That there is a certain loneliness in their lives they can only escape when they are with others who also share the war experience. That is the one time they can really relax, fearing no judgment, no misunderstanding from others, and feeling the comfort of being among brothers. That’s why some come thousands of miles to be there, why those of lesser wealth will still save up all year to make the trip, and all consider it time and money very well spent.

There are always some ceremonies, with things like pledging allegiance to the flag, singing songs such as national anthem or the Marine Hymn. Old spines stand straight, old voices may be hoarse and off-key, but they are not faint at all. They know the price of service to their nation, they remember the sacrifices of their absent friends, and they experience liberty in a way the majority of people cannot. I wish more of us could feel those feelings, and have the clarity of understanding of what we have and what it cost. Then Memorial Day would see a lot more people on the street for the parades, and at the monuments and the cemetaries.

In case you are not aware of it the young men and women of America are stepping up to the line, ready to defend our Republic against all enemies.

Lastly, I'll let Fred tell you how he remembers what this weekend means to him and far too few of us.

If you have a Veterans home or Cemetery near you, going out and taking a few flowers and taking your kids with you and explaining what this weekend is really about might be one of the most important things you could ever do.

My buds and the millions more, who have already went through the station and are at Fiddlers Green would really appriciate it.

Halfway down the road to hell,
In a shady meadow green,
Are the souls of all dead troopers camped
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddler’s Green.
-Author Unknown

Have a great weekend.

Papa Ray