There has been news on for the last three days about Memorial Day. Every time this weekend rolls around, I spend the entire weekend feeling a little bit sad. When I see all of the veterans that have suffered, whether it be PTSD or losing limbs, or losing their lives, it makes me sad. It makes me sad for those men and women who gave so much for our country. It makes me sad for all of the families that are affected by loss. I just think of all the Moms and Dads, all of the spouses, all of the children, all of the Grandparents, all of the other relatives and all of the friends that are devastated by loss. It can be from the death of a loved one, but it can also be the loss of the person that went to war and came back a completely different individual. No one can go to war and not come back a changed person. The sad thing about loss is one never does really ever get over it. For some reason, this year seemed to affect me especially hard. Every time a story came on the tears would well up in my eyes and I had a hard time controlling my emotions. I watched the National Memorial Day gathering in Washington D.C. on Sunday night, and it was very difficult for me to watch and listen to all of the stories. My eyes welled with tears constantly.
I also spend the weekend thinking about my own family. I am very proud of the fact that my grandfather, my uncle (my father’s brother) and my father all served in the war. All three men are deceased. My grandfather served in World War I and came back. My uncle served in the Navy during World War II, and he also came back. My father served in the Army during World War II and he also came back. My grandfather always honored his time served. He was a member of the VA and attended all of the yearly ceremonies that were held for over 40 years. I don’t know much about my uncle, but he always seemed pretty normal to me. I think my father had the hardest time of all. I don’t think he ever really recovered from fighting in the war. He flew a B17 bomber during World War II, and he used to always tell us stories of all the bombing raids. He was very proud to have served, but he always felt like the American people did not respect the sacrifices that were made and he always felt like the veterans from his time were not honored and were not taken care of after they returned. As the years went on, he became more and more bitter toward the government and most people in general. He was a very unhappy man. I really become very sad every year at this time, particularly when I think of my father. In 2005, one month before his 82nd birthday, my father took a gun, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. He left no note explaining WHY he decided to take his own life.
I have heard that most veterans who choose to take their own lives, within five years of returning from duty. I know it is probably rare for a veteran to take his life 60 years after he has served. But I cannot help but think that his suicide was partly from his disgruntlement with the government and all of the problems he faced the rest of his life. Somehow, his service took the joy out of him, and he became a very mean and unhappy man as the years passed. However, I never dreamed in a million years that he would be one to take his own life. My father was also a little arrogant, so I never even considered the fact that he would be able to do such a thing to himself or anyone else. I just thank God that he did not kill anyone else.
Even with all of the sadness that I experience, I also feel a great sense of pride. Even though I do not know any of the veterans portrayed, my heart swells with pride just to be an American and to live in this great country with such courageous men and women. We definitely have a myriad of problems in this country, especially right now. But, even with all of the problems, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. We have such freedoms and such phenomenal opportunities available to all of us in this country. I sometimes complain about things, but deep down, I know that things could be so much worse. When you see the world news and all of the unrest in the rest of the world, and all of the killing and horrific acts that are taking place around the world, how can one not be PROUD to be an AMERICAN?