Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering Memorial Day

Yesterday morning I wrote a fantastic post about hierarchy and the places people occupy in my life, how they fit, how they move up and down, and how they fall in and out of favor. It was witty, warm, and if I do say so myself, a little insightful. It had a little military comparison and kinda liked the flow it gave into the holiday weekend.

Then fuckin' Blogger ate it.

And today is Memorial Day and I refuse to write about hierarchy or swinging or sex or irritations or minor victories or defeats (because really, they are minor) or anything else other than the military and service.

One of the downsides of this sort of anonymity is that none of you know the vanilla side of my life (oh who the fuck am I kidding, I'm pretty much plain fuckin' vanilla every freakin' day) but I have a thing for the military. No, not a sexual fetish, but an awe, love and respect for any man or woman who volunteers to put their life up for grabs. Our military, any military really, serves one purpose, to fight an enemy, to the death whenever necessary.

For those of you who watch PBS' The News Hour, every day at the end of the broadcast, they scroll the names and photos of fallen soldiers, in silence, across the screen. Young privates, older sergeants, officers and enlisted -- all sons and daughters, some husbands, fathers, mothers and wives. Watching that day after day makes every day Memorial Day for me.

I have another friend who logs WWII veterans into the National Memorial. A veteran himself, he is tireless in his task and often posts interesting stories up on Facebook. He also introduced me to the website which lists the names and details of every US Military death in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as lists of civilian causalities.

Growing up in rural, shit-kickin' cow-country most-- in fact I'd say many -- of my friends from high school joined the military and, through Facebook. I've been able to reconnect with a lot of them. They served all over the world in a variety of ways. One helped close down nuclear facilities, another spent much of his career in Korea, another became a military lawyer.

They all possess a quiet confidence, a dignity. They all appear to have an appreciation for life and people. In fact, maybe it's just the folks who reconnected with me, but they all also have a pretty nuanced compassion for mankind combined with a pretty pragmatic approach to day to day life. My family members who served were the same way -- from those who served in WWII all they way to today.

I don't envy them and I don't think that military service is the only way to achieve these qualities, but I do think it speaks to the results of serving. I think these qualities are what you earn when you survive, when you get to come home to your loved ones, when you are not a fallen hero.

I would like to think that I would have done well in the military but most people don't think that's the case. They say I wouldn't have handled the "authority" and certainly in my younger days I don't think I could argue their point. To say that I've been insubordinate would be an understatement. The fact is, I was fired from or quit abruptly almost every job I've ever had. It's one of the main reasons I'm an entrepreneur.

But I like to think I would have had the courage; that I possessed the discipline. I would like to think that I would have had the strength of character needed to be loyal to my fellow soldiers and be willing to sacrifice for them. I hope I wouldn't have whined too much or learned quickly to shut up about it. I think I would have served with honor, even if I lacked distinction.

My friends, both those currently serving and those who've left, all know. They accepted the challenge to serve our country, to do their part in whatever capacity they chose, to be shot at and to shoot back, to drop bombs and to run for cover. Maybe they did sign up because they needed a way out of nowhere-ville or to get money for college or because they couldn't get a job any where else. Maybe some did want the adventure and maybe they got it. But I think most men and women volunteer because they want to serve their country. Because they want to do what's right.

So on Memorial Day I remember the ones who died and the ones who serve. I also choose to remember that military service is about honor. That those who fight and die in our name have earned our respect even if, perhaps, they no longer need it. They possess a self-respect, born from experience, trial, and testing, that transcends any parade or any Facebook posting or any blog tribute or any half-assed "remembrance."

To those of you who have, are, or will serve in the US Armed Forces, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.


  1. Thanks for the link to the site- I had never heard of them before.

    Great post my friend, thank you