Monday, May 30, 2011

On Memorial Day

I apologize to all the Men and Women who have served and in most cases made severe sacrifices for our Country, our Government, and our Citizens, to maintain the way of life we have come to cherish. My intent, earlier in the week was to write something of significance, and I spent a fair amount of brain time working out the correct tribute. Wednesday evening that all went out the window as you have put together from the preceding posts. There was nothing about this weekend that resembled a "holiday" for me. The wake and funeral exhausted me beyond what I could ever expect. The pain and anguish is palpable, even physical. It has little to do with my role as a responder, and more to do with my place as a father.
 It didn't help that at the funeral, I heard the whispers: "There's UU, he was first on the scene, he seems pretty broken up." It didn't help that in his remarks during the funeral service this young man's father thanked our Department for being there quick and doing everything that could be done. Nothing did, or will help, I just need time, leave me alone. No, I really don't want to talk about it and share my feelings, thank you very much. If you must know, Yes, I am very broken up because I get to keep my son, while he has lost his. I am having a hard time parsing out 'the luck of the draw'.
 So this weekend I have neglected our current service personnel and Veterans and I am sorry. It is the first time in 15 years I have not been at the parades to honor our Fallen. Usually I put my flag up to half staff at 6am and raise it to full staff after I return form the 2 parades we do (it is supposed to be raised at noon, but if I'm not here, I can't do it).  I am sorry that I have not been able to do what I intended. I'm sure you all understand why.
 None the less, now that the funeral is over and I have returned home and put on some comfortable clothes and pretended to do some chores around the house I am thinking of the Vets, and my family members that have given of themselves over the years. My cousins who are serving now, my Brother who served during Vietnam, my brother-in-law who also served in 'Nam, my Father who served in WW II, and one of my Uncles who also served in that War.
 My Dad strikes me as one who epitomizes what drives a person who enlists. During WW II he tried to enlist in the Navy. They rejected him because he had a heart murmur (Rheumatic fever as a child, it nearly killed him). Undaunted, he applied to the Coast Guard, this time armed with a note from his childhood and current physician attesting to his good condition. The Coast Guard had him visit a specialist who put him through an arduous physical fitness test, and finally admitted him. When his was firmly ensconced in the Coast Guard and serving on patrol boats off the east coast of the US, he put in for a transfer to the Navy. This, he knew, should require no screening exams as he was already 'serving' and a damned War was going on. Securing the transfer he wound up as a Chief Petty Officer on a Sub Chaser serving in the Philippines where he spent the duration of the War.
 My Dad doesn't talk much about the War except for the funny stories about shooting sharks, or stealing supplies from another outfit. But for me, my Dad is a Hero. I don't mean a hero that should be honored by all, just by me and my family. Because my Dad, just like hundreds of thousands of others in That War, and all Subsequent Wars, put their own lives on hold and did what was best for their Country. The left their homes, jobs, futures, and families to do what needed to be done so that our way of life could continue, and they knew full well that there was a fair chance they might not come back. Too few Americans understand the courage and commitment this takes. My Dad is 92 and still believes that what he did was what any sane person would do. He sees it as nothing unusual and 'what you should do when that type of thing happens.'
 Those of us in the Fire Service know a little bit about commitment and what it takes to put it all on the line when duty calls. For myself, I know that I will never be able to hold my commitment on a par with what my Dad did, but I believe I understand just how much it took for him to do that, and I am eternally grateful for him and all the other Men and Women who did the same thing.
 What we owe them can never be repaid, Thank a Vet everyday and by the time you die, you might have thanked 1% of them.
 We owe them much.

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