Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Honor Memorial Day Before The Barbeque And The Beach

Today is one of the longest work days for many workers.  They are watching the clock tick slowly to quitting time.  For many, it is the beginning of a 3-day weekend, filled with picnics, parties, barbeques, the beach, and fireworks.  This time of year is also known as the unofficial start of Summer, typically more than three weeks officially on the calendar.  And because it is a 3-day weekend, there is plenty of time to get all of these activities done.  But before you commence with the pre-Summer activities, recognize and honor what Memorial Day is really about.  And you will see, it has nothing to do with celebrating at all.

Often confused with Veteran’s Day by many, Memorial Day is just that, we memorialize and remember, all the men and women who died while serving our country, though it is common to assume the deaths occurred during wartimes.  But the truth is, for too many, our troops continue to struggle, especially emotionally upon their return home from battles.  And we have learned in recent years, how little we actually do to help our veterans deal with their health and their emotional issues, unfortunately until it is too late.

Just take a moment and think.  Can you name at least five wars since Memorial Day originated after the Civil War (originally named “Decoration Day”)?  It should be fairly easy, as even high school graduates who enlist realize that they will likely be deployed into one of those conflicts that is currently ongoing.  Really, besides the World Wars, and the Vietnam War, can you name others?  People died in these wars, we should know them by name.  At least knowing the history is a step in the direction of honoring our fallen heroes.

Libya

Yemen

Syria

Iraq

Uganda

Somalia

Pakistan

Afghanistan

And currently, our military presence is being built up to defend against Iran.  These are all conflicts in less than the last twenty years alone.  Eight wars/conflicts.  We have members of our military killed too frequently from the conflict itself, friendly fire, or even suicide, when they come home, unable to deal with the horrors of war that will not stay behind where the conflict occurred.

In the 20th Century, more than a dozen wars in the last two decades happened.  Two dozen more wars, including two world wars, the Vietnam War and Korean war filled up the 1900’s.  And the reason we remember the fallen, there are nearly three million reasons.  Millions of deaths of people who committed to fighting for our freedoms that we enjoy every day.

But as I mentioned, the deaths do not just occur on the battlefields.  Our country has no problem sending young men and women off to war, but when it comes to getting them help when they return home, our government lets our military heroes down, often tragically.  According to Military.com, 321 soldiers from all branches of the military, committed suicide last year, an all-time high.  That is nearly one every day.  Simply put, we are not doing enough to help the men and women who serve our country in the military.

Just today, on one of my groups that I participate in, a vet wrote that he was ready to give up his fight against his cancer.  The man, a father, a soldier, fought in war, but has given up hope, not that he does not think he could not beat the cancer, but for what.  He is also dealing with a domestic issue, his divorce.  As often happens, even among those who do not serve in the military, this vet is being alienated from his children.  The pain of dealing with war, is difficult enough emotionally by itself, and so is the reality when a parent is told by their child, that they no longer want anything to do with that parent, often repeating hateful lies spewed by the other parent or other family members and friends.  Combine both of these emotional situations, he no longer has the will to live.  His words, “why bother?”

The responses to this man have been many.  All of us are trying to do what we can, no matter where we live compared to the western state that he resides.  All of us in this group share the same cancer history.  Many of us in the group are also veterans of war (I am not, just for the record).  And some of us also have domestic issues that are emotionally charged.  But we all offer the same message, “we are here for you,” and “though it may not seem it, your children need you.”

ACE, ask, care, escort.  It is that simple.  This fellow cancer patient has reached out for help.  It is not up to us to decide if he really wants to die, and we certainly do not want that for him.  The conversations continue still this late in the evening from his initial posting this afternoon.

In my lifetime, I have known many family and friends who have served during war times.  I do not know anyone who died during those battles.  But I have attended military funerals.  They are powerfully emotional tributes.  I remember Memorial Day services in my childhood, which included military gun salutes.  And of course, we always got “poppies.”

There was always plenty of time for the picnics and parties.  There always is.  But there is also time to make sure that you honor our fallen military men and women.  And that is what this weekend is ultimately about.

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