My family has a rich history of service to our nation’s military. I can honestly say that every branch of the service is represented in the fine men and women with whom I share a genetic bond. I am proud of every one of them for what they have sacrificed and fought for down through the ages.
I want to also remember those who have fallen, either in battle or in the natural passing at the end of their lives. I also want to remember those who have fallen in a different way entirely. Those soldiers who have fallen in to civilian life and do not know quite how they fit in the puzzle that is not a war zone. Those soldiers who have fallen because war hardened them and shaped them in ways even they cannot fully comprehend. All bitter memories and pain too deep for words.
My grandfather died in the natural course of his life at the brilliant age of 89. July 25, 2013, three days after my husband and I celebrated our seventh anniversary. I’ll always feel the bittersweet of those memorial days now. He lived a long, amazing life. A man of integrity and character, he knew what it meant to build with his own two hands, the life he wanted. He fought death so hard, because he was stubborn enough to try to outlive it. I loved that man and wish I’d told him more, exactly how much he meant to me.
My father is also fallen but not in the eternal sleep either as a soldier dying with honor on the battlefield or an old man at the end. My father has been broken and changed and rebuilt and destroyed by life, not just as a soldier, but as a man. He won’t admit it, because pride comes in many different forms. His wounds aren’t all shrapnel and amputated limbs and the stench of gunpowder in his lungs. But he too clings stubbornly to life with the tenacity of a man who’s still fighting on the battlefield. I love this man too and even with all his wounds and his pride and his damned stubbornness, he’s a hero I’m h0nored to know. I wish he could trust in THAT truth above anything else. It would sure make our relationship a little easier.
But I have my own wounds, and while I was never on a battlefield (unless you count the reenactments during the civil war days or a museum at Cantigny Park) I too fight my own battles. I hope to follow in the footsteps of these two great men and in the footsteps of my other family members who have fought and fallen before me.
In the great exodus of the Israelite nation, the people stopped along the way to commemorate both the bitter and the sweet of their journey. The battles they fought both within and without, the lives of the fallen and the lives of those yet to fall. They memorialized things that to some, might seem trivial, meaningless. Unless you’d been there and witnessed it for yourself.
Today, I want to commemorate the men and women in my life who have fallen and those who have yet to fall. In life, falling is not always a bad thing, though we seem to make it that way with all of our ideas about failure and fairness and black and white. Sometimes, falling is just the precursor to learning to walk. For those who are learning to walk and falling a little or a lot,
A Blessed Memorial Day!