Why Its Called "Memorial Day"
Doug V. Gibbs has a profound post on his site, Political Pistachio, that warrants your attention.
I stood there gazing down at my grandfather's grave, recently. My mother and I stopped by his grave as she drove me home from the hospital that my son was at that day. He is just a young man of 22 years, and he is battling cancer. On Tuesday he will be back in the hospital, hopefully to commence the procedure that will finally remove this cancer from his body.
My grandfather served in the Army-Air Forces during World War II as an M.P. in France. I can still remember his stories from my childhood about the war. Granted, some of the stories were not necessarily the God's honest truth, like the one about him punching Hitler in the nose, but that was the kind of man he was. He joked around when inside he hurt a little. He passed away a few years ago. His body is at rest at the Riverside National Cemetery in California. His soul rests with God. His honor resides in my memories of him.
My dad served in Vietnam. He was a helicopter door gunner with the United States Marine Corps. He doesn't talk about his military days much, though sometimes you'll catch him say a thing or two about his service. Most of the time when he speaks of his time in Vietnam it's not about the fighting he was a part of, or the carnage he saw. If he speaks of his time in the service at all it is usually about his friends he had in Vietnam and at Camp Pendleton, and how they looked out for each other while he was there in Vietnam. He also talks, sometimes, about what it was like when he returned from overseas. There was no thank you. There was no parade. He took a taxi from the airport, sat down on his mom's couch, and switched on the television. On that black and white screen flashed images of the place he had just been hours before. It was surreal to him, knowing that he still had friends over there in Vietnam. His sister noticed he was home after a while, screamed to the family about his arrival, and at that point he received the only true welcome home celebration he would get. He has told me that he didn't regret fighting, but it still bothers him to this day that Americans had turned away from the soldiers, and he never really received a "Welcome Home, thanks for your service." Last year I met a couple writers at a Military Writers Society of America function. One was the widow of a Navy Corpsman from the Vietnam War, another a Vietnamese orphan that had been pulled from the region as we departed in 1975, and adopted by American parents. Both of them, after me telling them about my dad, gave me their books for free, and autographed them to my dad, thanking him for his service and welcoming him home. When I gave the books to him for his birthday a week later, and I opened them up so that he could read what had been written in them, he didn't cry, but I could see in his eyes that he wanted to.