Monday, May 30, 2011
I will not forget you, my brothers in arms.
Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, Fourth of July, Veteran's Day...these are a few days of the year that I solemnly remember the heroes of our military, both those who have come home like my grandfathers, my dad, my friends Travis and Tom...and especially those who haven't, like Jason.
John and I took the kiddos to the Memorial Day service at the high school today, where the local VFW and American Legion posts put on a very nice ceremony. The key speaker wasn't a retired General or Admiral, it was by a chaplain who served in Vietnam (not yet then a chaplain). The main point he was making was, "Freedom isn't free."
Of course, we've all heard this phrase many times, and we recognize that, but the chaplain continued on, asking the audience what they thought of when they heard the National Anthem; saw an American flag; saw the Color Guard in a parade.
He then told us what he thought of, or rather, who.
He listed the names of five men. All of whom he served with in the jungle of Vietcong.
And he told us the stories of these five men. One was shot by friendly fire when a helicopter gunner didn't know the American troops were going to be where they were. The artillery tore him literally in half. Another was shot above the eye in a firefight, and the chaplain held him for 45 minutes until the life finally left him.
Another lost his right leg in an explosion...the chaplain stopped speaking to regain his composure after telling us of the horrifying screams of pain that came from him. In the same explosion, another one of his fellow men had been torn apart. The chaplain quietly added, "The heaviest thing I ever lifted was another man's arm."
The final man was a medic, who had to option of staying behind and working in an Army hospital after he had shrapnel removed from his neck. He instead went back into the jungle, and later lost both legs and eventually his life, but not before bandaging himself up.
Later, as we stood in the cemetery for the 21-gun salute and the sorrowful cry of "Taps", I wondered why my grandfathers or my father never told us war stories. I understand that it is hard to bring up those memories, that in those moments during a firefight you're not necessarily fighting for your country but more for yourself and the man next to you, but the harsh reality of war is so glamorized in the movies that I think the gut wrenching stories like the ones I heard this morning need to be told...they need to be heard by myself, my kids, and the following generations.
We need to constantly be reminded that freedom isn't free.