Monday, May 28, 2012

Thoughts on This Memorial Day

All weekend I struggled over what I should write about for Memorial Day. So many ideas came and went, but none of them felt quite right. An article reminding everyone about the importance of remembering? Yes, for far too many it's simply a day to mark the beginning of summer by eating barbeque and drinking. Could be good, but almost cliche.

I began to think of not writing one at all, just writing the other articles on my list. O, of course I would make some Facebook and Twitter status mentioning how thankful I am to everyone who has or is serving. But honestly that feels pretty hollow to me today. How can you seriously thank someone enough, in just a few words, who did things you could never understand? There's truly no way to.

A day of silence to honor them? Ooops, too late for that, and there's already too much silence about it. Silence is all that those who don't care have, and I already dismissed doing nothing. Silence, whilst golden, is also one of the evils of the world. If our soldiers had remained silent, what form of tyranny would we be under? And so I started writing my thoughts.

All this led me to thinking of my family that's served. Past my grandparents, a lot is just stories handed down. I don't know many specifics about who, when, or where; but as far back as can be remembered ancestors bled mostly fighting against and possibly whilst wearing British colors. We were present during the Revolution, the Texas war for independence, and in the south during the Civil War.

My dad's dad was Royal Canadian Air Force, career. He served before, during, and after World War II, Korea, and the beginning of Vietnam. I never got to meet him, not from war loss, but from death caused by smoking his whole life. From what I've been told John Sangster ended up the highest level of Chief Warrant Officer, the highest level of non commissioned officer there is. No one but high ranking officers actually told him what to do. O, others could, but they didn't. Grandpa ran bases, nothing happened without his okay. Officers checked with him before they did things. He was the power behind the Colonel, or sometimes General.

Mum's dad served in the US Army during WWII. He fought in the Pacific, on islands such as Okinawa. Bill Dodson would earn his stripes before being honorably discharged. I grew up with his stories, at first when we lived next door, and then later whenever we got to visit. Those stories taught me so much, and I treasure them. This past fall, I was able to do a road trip, the focus of which was a weekend with him at the family reunion. I'll be forever grateful for that trip, as he would die three weeks later at the age of 91.

During Vietnam, my mum's brother and dad's brother both served. My dad volunteered, but was rejected by the USAF, based on his Canadian citizenship. Garth Sangster fought in the USMC at the beginning of the conflict. He was there at the very start, when they weren't even allowed to carry their weapons. Dennis Dodson served as a mechanic in the Army. Though I've not had the chance to hear many of their stories, they both have shared stories of being under fire without ways to fight back.

I've friends who served as far back as Nam, and others who currently do. I'm thankful beyond measure for their sacrifices. Their stories are as varied as their backgrounds, but the one thing that is the same between them all, they fought for their country. Most in the hopes, that they could keep the world's troubles far from the shores of the USA. Some simply because they were drafted, and had no other choice.

I was not allowed to serve, a rare genetic liver disorder, that's on the military's lists, keeps me out. But that does not mean that I'm not grateful for everything that our soldiers, as well those of our allies, have done. Given the chance I would've fought by their sides, but that was not meant to be. Instead I'm left with writing about them.

In their eyes you can see the pain, and sorrow. Innocence lost, friends to mourn. They suffered, saw greater yet, and still feel the pain in the memories of what happened and was seen. Some is too painful even to share. Regrets they may have, wishes to change things here and there definitely.

And let us not forget all those who have died in service. So many have died, in so many far away places. Our country still scours the earth for those lost in wars over the last century. Their families have not gotten back someone at all. Often receiving only a box and a flag. It is called the ultimate sacrifice for a reason.

Soldiers doing what needed to be done, fighting for in many cases simply survival, are what has kept us from having to fight ourselves. They are the reasons we get to have a day in the summer where we can simply sit around and eat that barbeque and drink. Their struggles have maintained our freedoms.

Don't just remember them, honor them.