Memorial Day. It started, contrary to Yankee lies in the south, the old Confederacy. There was no attempt by the Reconstruction gang to do anything about the graveyards filled with the Confederate dead, the surviving family members started out decorating the graves after cleaning up the weeds and trash that collects.
Then the whole towns started in. There were graveyards everywhere and a family from, say, Arkansas with a son, husband, brother or father who died outside of Richmond could know that their family member was taken care of while they cleaned up a grave of a soldier from Georgia.
This spread all 'cross the Nation, Lord knows there were plenty of graves. Some six hundred thousand American dead when in 1870, while memories were still fresh, the whole population was only thirty-eight million.
Fast forward to my war in the 1960s. I saw my first war death on May the Seventh, 1965. A Marine somehow fell off the net while climbing from the troopship to the landing craft. He managed to fall between the ship and the boat and the weight of all the crap they made us carry sent him straight to the bottom. His was not nearly the last death.
Some fifty eight thousand of us died for no good reason. God only knows how many uf us died too early after our tours.Cancer from the Agent Orange, PTSD, , pain from wounds, depression. Many of us were literally in the war one week, flown home and separated from active duty and back in our hometowns the next.It was jarring.I left the US near the end of '64 or the beginning of '65. We were supposed to go on some amphibious exercises on the Siver Strand beaches of Coronado, California and then in Hawaii. We did all that and then were supposed to come back to Pendleton. Somehow the Sun was in the wrong place, though and it didn't take long before we figured out that we were heading almost due west, into the Sunset like Roy Rogers.
Next thing I knew we were in Okinawa. My next stop, Chu Lai.
This day isn't about me. It's about the young men who flew home in shiny aluminum boxes. Yet it's about me, too. How those young men would visit me almost every night that I didn't drink myself to sleep. I don't do that anymore, I hardly think about it. When I do think of them it isn't like it used to be, they do not look at me accusingly.
I do not believe it is possible to do enough for those young men. And I wonder. Did the young men of The War To End All Wars have their buddies visit them?Or today's kids from Iraq or Afghanistan? Do those young men (and now, women) drink themselves to sleep?
It took a couple-three years of sobriety through the 12 step program for me to finish exorcising my demons.Twenty+ years after the first landings at Chu Lai. I pray today's kids don't take that much time.