I always thought those who died in wars were heroes. I also thought that those who lived were the same. It's been a long time, but I remember so many of my young friends who lost their lives in senseless wars, some still do. This memorial day I thank God and pray that they were united with him. I have thought long and hard this Memorial day and visited several of the graves of long ago friends wasted away in wars.
Memorial Days are hard for me, also the Fourth of July. Those are two holidays I dread to see approach. This year, I suppose because of the craziness surrounding us, it's even harder. Most days I am blessed and find my God beside me, but for whatever reason, there are those days that one can wonder why, but never know, God Has shut one out, to let him or her wrangle with themselves. Those times are hard. One's mind works too fast and quick, while dwelling mostly on negative thoughts. It's been that kind of week for me.
I'm living too much in the sixties and seventies. I am recalling a young man with a decent ego, proud, boastful, and tall and straight. I recall my first combat duty. I was an American Service Man, part of the greatest and most powerful nation on earth. It was a new world for me and while exhausting I found it no means difficult. Then the incoming shells would sometimes come, and afterwards I found myself safe. I was 18 years old and invincible. The laws of civility had gone and were replaced with a code of where you only had to answer to those in command. Yes, I felt like a superman, then one day the shells found their mark. It was on those days I saw how much blood could escape from one human body and it was torn to rags. It was on that day all my illusions disappeared, and I knew that all that youth and being invincible was a charade. That day I knew fear and when the shells came in the future, I knew how real they were. This youth had learned that death is final, not just a mirage.
In 1972, I was driving through a rural area of the midwest, and remembered a name, a name of a friend whose death I had witnessed, and thought why not, it was just a short drop off the main road. No GPS in those days, so I located the local graveyard by asking. I found it, but had some trouble finding the grave. There was a little visiting shed with a map of the plots so that finally pointed me in the right way. There were three graves lined up, and the stones were those that lay flat. The grass and moss covered the stones, so it was obviously that little care was being put forth. I went to the car and got the base of my old bumper jack and used it as a shovel to scrape off the soil. There were three generations that came to light...a WWI veteran, a WWII veteran, and a Vietnam veteran. Grandfather, father and son, all in a row. All heroes to me, but obviously not to others. I heard a mower going and directed myself to the sound. I found the caretaker and chatted for some time. He said normally those graves had been kept up, and he did not know why for several months the care had ended. It was family responsibility to care for the plots, while he cared for the grounds in general. I left there with a promise from him that he would see to it as a favor.
I expected to find a Hero's grave. But sadly, it was not there. But in my heart the hero was there, under that sod. I have visited many graves this weekend, and I wish that more in the ways of monuments, upkeep , etc. could have been spotted.
Back to those first incoming hits, I grew up that day. I learned the finality of death. The next incoming ones I encountered, I would know deep fear and what those shells could do. My throat would be choked up. I still worry sometimes about something falling from the sky and causing me harm. Regardless, kept up or not, the Vets I know, and all Vets, back to the beginning are Heroes. Lord how I've prayed for them over the years and will until I die.