Memorial day is on it’s way. Officially declared in 1971 as the day to remember those fallen in war. But reality is that those of us who lost someone don’t need a special day to remember. We remember. We live the loss every day. Nobody has to mark it on the calendar. The pain is always raw therefore forcing us to remember. It has been years since someone I know died in Iraq of Afghanistan, but I think about each of them at least a few times per week. I don’t know if we’d be friends if they hadn’t moved on, but I do know they made an impact on my heart. Ryan was a friend from high school. Jared was a friend in ROTC. Billy was an impossible dream I couldn’t hold on to.
They aren’t the only ones I remember. I think about those who came home different. I wrote about two of my friends here. I hate to say it, but I avoid one friend. I thank God he is alive, but I can’t hang out with him. He is slowly killing himself with drugs and alcohol. I can’t be a part of that.
There is another story I haven’t fully told. I fell in love. It started slowly over the internet. We couldn’t talk any other way – he was half way around the world in Iraq. I didn’t even realize it was happening. I swore I didn’t believe in love stories or fairy tales. It’s a good thing, too. You see? It turns out the war doesn’t send home the man it took. But he got into my head. I had fitful sleep at night. Sometimes no sleep at all because I worried about whether he was alive or dead. Would he be off duty and online when I woke up in the morning? After his second deployment, I met him, his family, and his friends. I had momentary daydreams about what our relationship would be like. I’ll never forget the words of a person I barely knew, “I know you love him. I wish someone would look at me the way you look at him.” After his third deployment, I thought everything would change. Somewhere in my messed up, twisted logic, I believed we would be together.
The details of that are meant for another post. The point here is that I turned into a victim of the war. I remember a man I fell in love with, but he isn’t the man they sent home to me. The war took my love story and shredded it. Every day I text him, every day I can hear his voice, every day I look at him, every change I get to hug him… I thank God he is alive because I almost lost him to suicide. I may not have lost him. I can drive over to his house right now and he is there. Maybe we weren’t meant to be a happily ever after couple. That’s okay. But that war took years of his life. He came home unable to allow me – or anyone else – to love him. He came home afraid, introverted, and hating himself.
Maybe there is a day called Memorial Day. Maybe that day is meant to honor those who have passed on. Maybe there’s a day called Veterans Day. It seems to me that one doesn’t get nearly enough recognition. My dead friends live on in my heart every day. They don’t care if the rest of the world eats backyard BBQ and gets drunk. What about the living? Don’t they get a day off work? Either way, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are one and the same to me. I remember all the time. I miss my friends all the time. I thank God for lives spared all the time.
This all stemmed from a news story that the radio decided needed to have Taps played for. Once I hear it… it’s resonates within my soul.