Memorial Day

So, it’s Memorial Day. And you’re probably being bombarded by people telling you to remember the men and women who have served — and continue to serve — our country in order to ensure our ability to enjoy our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. So, this really won’t be a blog about that. This blog entry will probably be a little more selfish — it will be about how those who serve/have served have affected my life — directly and indirectly.

For those who have reading since I first started blogging on myspace years ago, my family has been involved with the military for a long, long time. If the records we’ve traced back are accurate, parts of my family have served since the War of 1812. We have pictures of one of my great-great-grandfathers who served in the Union army during the Civil War — not once, but twice. (He was captured initially, traded in a prisoner exchange, discharged and re-enlisted.) One of his brothers served in taming the West, and his unit was the first in after Little Bighorn. My Uncle Fred died during the invasion of Normandy, and is buried in France. My Uncle Joe was awarded for actions on board a ship that torpedoed during the Normandy invasion, and he apparently saved the lives of more than 30 others. My father is a retired Marine who served during the Cuban Missile crisis, and was the last man out of his unit before it shipped to Vietnam. I had 2 uncles serve in Vietnam — both lived, but my Uncle Frank, who served 2 tours there, committed suicide from the severe post-traumatic stress that he could no longer bear. (My family still doesn’t like to talk about that, and getting information about Frank is like pulling teeth.) And there are many others that I know I’m missing … my Slovak grandfather (Merchant Marines), my Uncle Kenny (Navy), my Aunt Dora (Woman’s Air Corps), and Bernie, the grandfather of my nephews, who was a Korean War veteran and served as a DI at Parris Island.

And there are my friends — the people who helped shaped my life. Most of them are Marines. There’s the Marine Sgt. who doesn’t like to be mentioned on the Web, so I keep him anonymous. But I’ve learned my persistence and gung-ho “let’s do this” attitude from him. There’s a former Captain who I went to college with who helped keep me focused by leading by example. There’s countless others — Gulf War vets and those that served in peace-time — that I am friends with now. I’m truly blessed to have them around. All of my friends that went to Iraq and Afghanistan have come back (physically) in one piece, including all the people who I played Warcraft with — and there were a lot of them.  However, not everyone has been so lucky.

My friend Doug recently received news that his brother was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Reading his Facebook feed regarding his brother’s death, and the people who showed up at his funeral to honor his memory, has been an eye-opener.

Another friend of a friend had her son severely wounded in Afghanistan. I think I met her once briefly before he enlisted — I was walking in to my friend’s home as she was leaving, but you can read her blog about her daily struggle to help her son here.

But her story opens another door to Memorial Day. We always talk about the pain we endure when we lose a serviceman or woman who we know, and their sacrifice for the rest of us … but there are so many that come back permanently wounded. The Gulf War alone has seen tens of thousands of our servicemen and women come back as amputees. Brain injured. Blind. Mentally scarred. And yet, a lot of them still manage to find a way to inspire or affect our lives in positive way by the example they put forth.

Today in the Trib, there is a story about another veteran — Jeremy Feldbusch — well, his story is on internet lockdown today, but I’m sure it’ll be available soon. Read it if you get the chance. This man, despite being blinded and having brain damage, continues to live his life as normally as possible. He hunts. He rides a bike. He volunteers to help other wounded veterans through the Wounded Warrior project. If his story doesn’t inspire you to be better than what you are, I really don’t know what will.

So to the men and women who serve: I know in your minds, you’re simply doing your job — what you’ve been trained to do. And likely, you’re focused on completing your mission while doing your best to keep the men and women you serve with alive. But in the larger scheme, your actions and sacrifices — whether it be judged in lives, quality of life, or just time away from your loved ones while deployed — will always be remembered. Your actions, service and stories affect us all, now and always.

Thank you.

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