Tis Memorial Day! For most around here, it’s just a celebration of the start of summer. Time, then, to get my abs in check, and my tan on point (as if either of those really needed the work anyway, let’s be serious ).
You’re gonna see a LOT of Memorial Day posts today – on places like Facebook and Twitter. A lot of messages in the papers and in the news. A lot of little speeches on sports broadcasts and in public celebrations around the country. Just like on Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or any other holiday…
And every one will thank those who serve or have served, who’ve been hurt or been lost. Thanking them, of course, for their service and their sacrifice, for what they’ve given up for the nation in defense of our freedom.
I dunno, though. I just don’t like cliché crap like that. Nor do I think it’s really so simple as that.
I mean…not every soldier has defended anything. And I don’t think I owe my freedom to write here, or talk wherever, or do whatever to every soldier now or ever.
The full progress of freedom and rights is more often won by civilians – in courts, and protests, and legislation. Freedom from kings, then, is won by sword and gun. But freedom from each other is won by the will and determination of us all.
And so, in my years on this earth, I’m pretty damn sure my freedom has never been threatened in any real or immediate sense by some battle on the other side of the world. In fact, I know I’ve never seen enemy armadas at our shores, or foreign armies at our borders. And I’m kinda positive, actually, that no one’s tried invading this country since the danged Red Coats in what, the War of 1812? (if I’m wrong correct me, though mostly I just wish they still made them fight in that stylish red, actually…)
And the truth is…it’s likely no one will EVER again, right? – despite whatever our relative strength in the world – because of the simple fact that the we’re 3,000 miles wide, 315 million people deep, and protected on 4 sides by 2 allies, and 2 massive freaking oceans.
I mean, it’s just not doable.
And so, to ME, Memorial Day isn’t about freedom or about whatever patriotic stuff you can put on posters or type on gifs online.
What SHOULD Memorial Day Honor?
Round here at The Last Broken Home, I think it’s prooobably pretty obvious that much of this site is about the Individual – about the effect that the world has in preventing a single person from being their best Self.
All the things that happen to them. All the things said to them. All the things expected of them. Every friend, every family member, every teacher, every stranger has an ability to effect what this person thinks about themselves, and thus an ability to change the course of that person’s life.
And so it’s through THIS lens that I appreciate and celebrate Memorial Day – the effect on the individual – on the soldier who must endure so much for so little.
It’s not simply that people have sacrificed for their country or their countrymen. It’s not that they’ve laid down their lives for the paper ideals they were taught in grade school. It’s not that they’ve protected “freedom” or fought for whatever our government thought was just or right.
Screw that shit…
Because all the nationalistic crap? It just doesn’t exist out THERE – in the war-torn villages of Europe in the 40s, or the jungles of Vietnam in the 60s, or the sands of the Middle East or Western Asia now – when every day is a struggle to simply see the next day.
Because there aren’t two “countries” lined up against each other on the battlefield out there. I mean, citizens don’t line stands and cheer on sides like the Olympic games or some shit like that.
We the people don’t see what happens. And they, the soldiers, don’t see us.
We don’t – and CAN’T – matter to them so directly out there.
Cause these soldiers don’t run the battlefield with the knowledge that if they don’t win this fight today their family is in danger of death or rape back home. They don’t fight just outside our houses, protecting those who live inside from soldiers who would break in should they not hold the line.
They don’t fight for flags, or freedoms, or the idea that is our country – out there when bullets are flying and men and women are falling.
Because out there there is no U.S. and whoever else. There are no Presidents present, or Kings, or Prime Ministers. There are no Congresses or citizens. There’s just 2 groups of men.
There’s just life and death.
And every second those lives are fighting for nothing more than simply ANOTHER second – another moment alive, another day to live, another chance to see home.
And it changes them.
And so Memorial Day IS to honor those who HAVE given the ultimate sacrifice – not of their lives, but of their Selves, I think. Not simply the bodies they call theirs, but their minds – their comfort, their ease in this world, their very sanity. It’s to honor their actions amidst the most terrifying of human experiences. It’s to honor what these men and women have given OF themselves and shown IN themselves to endure what must TRULY be the most horrifying thing imaginable – war.
Because I CAN’T imagine what it’s like to have lived what they lived. And I have NO desire to know.
I can’t imagine the fear and dread. I can’t imagine the feeling of waking up every day just HOPING that you’ll be given the chance to do the same tomorrow.
THAT’s what’s so remarkable about these men and women. THAT’S what’s worthy of our admiration and thanks.
Because you crouch in a frozen, stinking, rotting trench in some far reach of Europe for weeks on end in the dead of winter, next to bodies you can’t bury and wounded friends you can’t help, knowing that simply peaking your head up to see the field means you might not come down with one at all, and tell me you’re still concerned with freedom and justice.
You march in the soaking rains of Vietnam for days, always fearful that you’re in fact surrounded, though you see no one else and hear no one else; forever horrified that your next step touches not grass or mud, but the tip of some mine you had no hope of seeing, and tell me you come back the same person; that you simply walk a park in the same way that you once did.
You watch the friends you’ve grown to love as brothers fall beside you – screaming, crying, pleading, bleeding out and torn apart – and tell me your opinions on life and fear and love are not changed forever; that YOU are not changed forever – made incapable of sleep, of calm, of peace, of living at all – sometimes for a time, sometimes for the rest of your time.
These people will go home and NEVER be the same. Many, of course, won’t go home at all. Their lives will be lost on some foreign land in some battle that will soon be forgotten.
But many more sacrifice no less than their Selves. They’ll sacrifice not their lives, but their ability to live their lives at all - to live the lives they had fought so hard to protect.
My dad spent the most important years of his life is the worst place of his life – in the scorching, pouring jungles of Vietnam – living surely in a never-ending fear, seeing and doing things that no person should ever endure.
What you learn about veterans over time, and what I learned about my father early on, is that they don’t discuss what happened to them. They don’t talk willingly about the things they did and saw.
And you just don’t ask, because to tell it is to re-live it. And no person in their right mind would want to re-live what they’d give anything to forget.
But over time, if you’re lucky enough to be around a veteran for any great length of time, as I’ve been with my Dad, you pick up LITTLE things here and there, when they’re reminded of their experiences, when they hear certain things that trigger certain memories.
Usually it’s just a sentence or two, but in that sentence is something so horrible or so disgusting that you can’t imagine it being worthy of ONLY a sentence or two.
But so unremarkable is it to them that that IS all it seems worthy of in their mind and memory.
And THAT’S how you know JUST how life-changing war can be. That the horrifying is made, to them, unremarkable; that the scariest things become something too normal or familiar to be worth expanding on.
War is the Worst Broken Home
When I was younger, my Dad was a much angrier and more violent person. In his older age he’s really mellowed out from what he once was.
But even back then, when his temper was a pretty constant source of fear for my brothers and my sister and I, I always tried my best to understand that this was a man who had experienced certain things that I could NOT understand, and that he was, in a way, still the product of those things.
Maybe HE was the beginning the this site, I dunno.
Because if school and family and friends can make a broken home, what could war do?
Because if the stupid little things stupid little people say to us, or do to us when we’re young can affect us a lifetime, what could war do?
If a person can be made bitter for life, or depressed for life, or fucked up for life because of single things experienced in their childhood – a parent gone, a mother abused, a family falling apart – what could war do?
I’m always conscious, then, that a single day in battle is far worse than an entire childhood in a broken home; that a day spent among blood and death can undo in 20 minutes even the most perfect upbringing.
And it’s THIS courage to endure these things and survive these things that I think is so worthy of honor on Memorial Day.
War is the ultimate broken home. And so today the country celebrates those who’ve lived it, and made it back at all…
Enjoy Memorial Day!
What do YOU think about on Memorial Day(or whatever similar holiday your country has)? Love it or hate it, lemme know what you think below, and take a sec to share the post pretty much to every person on earth. That’s fine, haha…