Memorial Day is supposed to be a day of remembrance for fallen service members who have fought to serve America. Many of us take trips, have barbecues, hit the clubs, or simply lay in bed all day expecting double payment on our next paycheck, all in honor of this mournful day. Ever been to a birthday party without the birthday girl or birthday boy? Ever swallow your favorite cuisine without even tasting the flavor? What is the point if you can’t indulge in the appreciation of it all? “Happy” Memorial Day Everyone! But other than those who sleep well at night in a nice, comfortable bed, who goes home to a hot, refreshing meal, who can water their lawn, or walk their dogs, how can we be happy? What is so “happy” about celebrating those slain for a country who would demoralize his/her very own existence if he/she were still alive? After service, many service members go back home expecting a warm welcome but instead are greeted with a warm blanket and a simple “Happy Memorial Day” or “Thank you for your service”. That’s it. Whose job was it to feed the hungry anyways? The poor? The homeless? Let me correct that by saying, “Whose job was it to feed the hungry patriots? The poor ex-servicemen? The homeless veterans?” Many would assume that it was the job of the same beings employed to feed the rich…you…the American citizen.
While working overseas on a base, I have become aware of all that is going on in the world, seeing military from all over the world join forces to reach a common goal, but I also noticed that with that common goal came a different expectation. Speaking to different service men from Spain to Belgium, to Africa, to Italy, Australia, and even America, it amazes me how their expectations differ so vastly, yet are so commonly distorted by illusions. Most share the same ignorance, and when I say “ignorance” it is all in the act of not knowing. Most of them didn’t’ even know why they chose to join the military other than the common cliché of an answer… “to protect my country”. To pick their brains I would ask, “So why aren’t you in your country, protecting your country? Who is protecting your family in your country, as we speak? Wife and kids are home alone…do you tell them to lock the doors while you are thousands of miles away from home?” This may not sit well with many, but let’s look at the truth being told. When at war, nobody really “knows” why they are fighting half of the time. Joining the military, to me, is like walking into a place and seeing someone you care about(America) involved in a fight, hence, triggering that protective reaction to a situation you know nothing about, other than what your loved one (your government) has told you. You don’t even know rather your “loved one” was wrong or right. There are three sides to a story, and in war, we are forced to choose one side, and at times that choice may be deadly. Therefore, sacrifices are made based on the faith that that “loved one” would return the favor, but what happens when that favor is not returned.
I also realized that most of them lacked a realistic return plan. Maybe go to school? Get a job? Go back home to a happy household? Buy a home and live a nice life? Some of them actually figure it out and for those who don’t…..well…reality sets in when they do return, and the plans they thought they had turned into dreams dangling from a height way beyond their reach. Things are not as easy as was promised to them. Money has run out and jobs, that they were qualified for in the military, won’t even compensate for experience in this new “real world”. Tell me the difference in the transitioning of someone being released from prison and someone being released from service? We shove them into mental institutions and correctional facilities, watching them fight an intangible battle against their mind and society, just to live. How can we remember the fallen over loud music and drunken banter on memorial days? Is there hope for those still standing, waiting to be heard? Appreciated? Welcomed? Thanks, but no thanks for your service, says the actions of America.
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