Monday, May 31, 2010


When I was a kid, Memorial Day meant that we kids got to wave small American flags all day, and that we were going to see a PARADE. This was pretty big excitment in my small five year old world. When we were really small, sometimes my dad would hoist my sister or myself on his shoulders to watch the parade go by. We watched uniformed men (and sometimes women) march by, bands would play, a few lovely ladies would wave from the backs of convertibles, and a baton twirler or two, in a shimmering, sparkling bathing suit and wearing tall white boots would strut their stuff in time to the band music and throw their twirling batons high into the air and then most amazingly catch them as the batons came twirling back down. Sometimes my dad bought us balloons from a street vendor on the sidewalk. Seeing the parade was fun, we kids were excited, and we all went home feeling proud of our country.

At the time, I am sure that I did not understand what Memorial Day was really all about, but even at five years old, I understood that we were honoring the men and women who went off to fight for our country. I did not then understand the horrors of war, or wars fought over oil, or the draft, or war protestors, or getting mired in Vietnam, Afganistan or Iraq. But, all of that does not really matter on Memorial Day. Memorial Day should be about one thing only - honoring those who fought and died for the rest of "us" Americans, no matter what war, no matter how just or unjust.

Jimmy was a childhood friend who lived across the street from me from the time I was two until we moved away when I was 14. Jimmy was a few years older than me, but I played with his younger sister Susie all the time. Jimmy came back from Vietnam and one day, shortly after he got back, shot himself in the head. His experience in Vietnam took his life from him. He might as well have died in Vietnam. Jimmy, Memorial Day is for you, for you and all of your buddies who served and died in Vietnam.

Vietnam was an unpopular war, a draft war, a war collective America would like to forget, a war whose wounded came home to glares instead of parades. Let us hope that we treat our returning war veterans from Iraq and Afganistan, two more unpopular wars, with the honor and respect which they deserve.

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