Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memories on Memorial Day - By Bob Beane

Memorial Day can mean many things to many people. To some people it is a chance for a spring vacation, with perhaps a family trip somewhere. To other people it can mean a chance to have a quiet time at home and to start those spring clean-up chores and garden work. The students, those in high school or in college, are all looking at the calendar and thinking of “finals” and perhaps a graduation ceremony.

 Most communities are planning some sort of a Memorial Day ceremony to honor the military Veterans that live in their respective areas.  These ceremonies can be simple or extensive, depending upon the community’s efforts, their available resources, and their intentions.

At these ceremonies many of the attendees are Veterans, those men and women who have served a portion of their respective lives in the military services of the United States. They will be attending these ceremonies, to remember, and fill that need to remind themselves of what they have done at some point in their lives. Of being “out there on the line”, placing themselves in danger to save someone else's life. They will also be remembering other members of that special brotherhood, who paid the ultimate price and lost their lives, while saving others.     

When you encounter these Veterans, thank them and take a moment to look into their eyes. You may be met with the “thousand-yard stare”. These are the Veterans who have “seen the elephant”. This phrase comes down to us from the mid-nineteenth century of American history, from those times of the Mexican / American War and the American Civil War. This phrase was used to describe someone who had become a soldier, starting out with great excitement and high hopes, only to be faced with experiencing that nightmare of desolation and sadness; that disenchantment with, and the frustrations, from the destruction of their ideals; that time of going through the horrors of warfare, experienced in the mud and gore, at the ground level.  

This writer was very fortunate. As a high school senior and in the Army National Guard, I was told that I would be taught to shoot people. I chose instead to enlist in a military service that would teach me to do search and rescue work. I spent my military service doing just that, on the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New England and out to one thousand miles. My first human body recovery experience, outside of a funeral chapel, was just three months after my eighteenth birthday. The body was in Portland Harbor and had been in the water for a few weeks. As we worked to recover the body, the flesh fell away from the skeleton back into the water. Welcome to salt water rescue work, kid!  

This Memorial Day remember that it’s good for us all to remember our military Veterans and what they have done for us, but it’s also good to remember that our military Veterans have their own memories to deal with. 

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