Personal Reflections on Memorial Day 2016

2016-05-30_0548 Memorial Day 2016Today is the day we honor those who served our country and were lost in battle. I have a fair number of personal friends who are veterans from various conflicts and peacetime, and my grandfather and father both saw combat (in the Navy during WWII and the 82nd Airborne during Vietnam, respectively.) Any one of them could have been lost by a simple twist of fate. If my grandfather had died serving in the Pacific, my father would never have been born, and I obviously wouldn’t have either. It is a harrowing thing to contemplate, what could have happened and how it would changed the course of my personal history. It also fills me with a renewed sense of respect for what each of these men – family and friends alike – went through, and gratitude that they made it home. My grandfather died when I was just a kid, in 1989. He was a severe alcoholic for decades and my father was a bit estranged from him. The way he drank, he was lucky to have lived as long as he did (about 65 at the time of his death, but really much older than that for all intents and purposes.) I never got to know the man very well, being as distant and diseased as he was, and I am not certain he ever even realized I was his grandson. My most distinct memory of him was his burial; the taps being played, and the twenty-one gun salute bombarding my eardrums. And my father, his son, not showing much emotion except calm and acceptance. For all the hell he put my father, grandmother, and aunts through, I am eternally thankful he came home from the war. I am especially grateful my old man wasn’t shot down in the jungles of Vietnam. He never goes into detail about those days, apart from his stint at Fort Bragg, but unlike his father he never lost himself in the bottle. He kept his head up, and always did right by myself and my family. And he could have been forgiven had he broken down, but his strength of character has always been something to behold. Unfortunately, I took a bit more after Grandpa, and grew into an alcoholic. And I never had the excuse of surviving war. I am in recovery now, and I try not to lose sight of the fact that men and women served – and many died – to give me the freedom to have been the reckless lush that I was for about twenty years. God Bless America, and God Bless the memories of all who perished in duty …

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