Easter Thirty – Five
May 24, 2014
Memorial Day Weekend – Sat
There weren’t a lot of other choices. His friend at the blacksmith shop thought it would be exciting but really, he could either join the men going to help fight or stay home and work the land with his father and two brothers. He wasn’t the oldest or the youngest so it seemed like a good way to spend the summer. He had no special skills, could shoot a gun and steer a canoe, but that was more for fun than anything else.
His father did not want him to go but understood. His mother did not. She had known his dad as a lad and said that fighting with Gen Washington had changed him. He didn’t seem to smile much. His dad said freedom was good and he loved the new country but he had loved his brother more and his brother had died fighting for freedom. History was repeating itself and now it was his turn to go. He’d been named after his uncle and now he was following in his footsteps.
His cousin had joined his father in heading west after the death of his son. His wife had died from a broken heart, he said, and he no longer wanted to live in the state that represented death to him. The west had seemed like the end of the world but now the fight for freedom had followed them. His cousin said he’d told his son freedom wasn’t worth dying for but he now seemed to understand. Standing up for his country and the rights it guaranteed a man and his family was the best thing he could think of doing.
He’d returned from fighting to the Texas homestead but his cousin’s son had not. Now he and his cousin were on opposite sides of the war, a war fought not with a foreign country but with their own countrymen. His cousin’s grandson was eager to join the fight and others in the area were joining as well, though some would become the enemy. Families and neighbors were being torn apart and that was before the death toll was counted. When it was, more men had died.
His grandmother had made him promise to never ever fight but the government was drafting people so he had no choice. The family Bible listed the names of those who had died fighting for the country. She said she didn’t want any more names added. Another war and another draft and another name added. And then the first female of the family was killed, a nurse giving aid to the wounded of both sides.
The called the two unofficial wars “conflicts”, a weird name when the sounds of war were being heard in the two southern countries on the Asian continent. More families grieved, regardless of what the world deemed the battles. Dead was still dead as military statistics were counted, a result of yet another fight for freedom and human rights.
He looked through the pages of the family Bible as he sat idly on the couch, sent home from his job at the airport because the planes were grounded. After Vietnam, they’d had a generation that did not die in uniform although an uncle who taught at a college had been held prisoner for over a year as a hostage and died from his injuries. Then a cousin volunteered and was killed in the Middle East, killed as he slept in his barracks in a beautiful country whose landscape defied the political turmoil. His older brother had joined up after that and perished in his vehicle taking food to villagers in a Middle Eastern dessert.
The silence of the air outside his apartment seemed strange since usually he heard the planes taking off and landing. The television told of almost three thousand killed as they went about their jobs by the harbor and he knew another would be crying that night over the loss of a daughter, a son, or a spouse grieving their love. Children would grow up never knowing their parent who had perished. He picked up the phone and made an appointment. Another would volunteer to fight for freedom.
Through history, mankind has had to choose between living and dying. Americans have chosen to live with freedom and that has come at a cost. This weekend is the prelude to the day in which we honor those efforts, those decisions, and those lives that paid the ultimate price.
They say history repeats itself. While I fervently hope that violence does not have to repeat itself, I also fervently hope that the courage and bravery of all our American heroes does. Everything we do today is because of them. May everything we do honor them.