Yesterday, May 29, 2017, was Memorial Day. It is the day we remember the men and women who died in defense of the country. One of those we remember is David C. M. Jackson, my brother. His name is engraved on Panel 61, Line 38 of the Vietnam War Memorial. I wrote about David on the anniversary of his death earlier this year, and I’ll write about him again in the future. Today, I am writing about another class of veteran and hero.
Last year for Memorial Day I wrote Something Left Behind. In some ways this piece is reminiscent of Left Behind. In others it is different. Each of us leaves a piece of him or herself in the past at times. A piece of me is stuck on a cold wet highway in north Texas where I stood among the battered and broken bodies of a carload of college students who had just celebrated their last Halloween. It stands next to the piece of me I left at the side of a six-year-old girl whose father ran one stop sign too many.
As bad as those incidents were, I never watched a buddy in combat go out on patrol and fail to return. I never came out of my bunker after the bombing stopped to find a bunkmate had earned a posthumous Purple Heart. I never had to watch as men I trained with, sweated with, drank with, and bled with spent their last moments on earth charging an enemy position in some third world hellhole that most people didn’t know existed. I have had the honor to know such men, and in a few cases I’ve had the privilege of helping them expunge at least some of the demons haunting them. I am writing today for those veterans.
Their lives are caught somewhere between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. They are here to honor the memory of their fallen comrades, and they will hopefully be here in November to be honored for their service. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no day to honor or even acknowledge them for dealing with the pain and guilt they feel for living when others died. I want to acknowledge them here.
These are the men, and women, who spend their days working, raising their families, loving their grand kids, and helping their communities. Most of the time they are fine, but sometimes they wonder. For every name on the Vietnam Memorial, for every headstone in a National Cemetery, for every lost soul whose body was not recovered there is at least one who wonders. He wonders why his name is not engraved in stone. She wonders why her name is not cast in bronze. They wonder why they are not the ones remembered sadly on birthdays and anniversaries. They wonder, what they did to deserve life.
I wish I had the answer for each and everyone who feels that way. I don’t, but I am certain there is a reason. I do know everyone dies, and some never live. Those who survived have a choice. In some cases they make that choice one day a time. Maybe the song below has a message for those waking up every morning and wondering why. I hope it does.
© OneOldCop – 2017