Reflections on Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and a three-day weekend for most.  We gather family and friends together for cookouts, take the boat to the lake for the first outing of the season, head to the beach, or do that landscaping project we’ve been putting off all spring.

The Rib and I will spend the day with Aphrodite lounging on the beach, cooling off in the pool, throwing something on the grill for dinner, and probably enjoying an adult beverage or two; but before I do all that, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on the day set aside for remembering the brave men and women who have gone to war and never returned.

As I sit listening to the crashing ocean waves, I try to remember the people that should be remembered today.  I (thankfully) don’t have a long list of people that I knew personally to remember on Memorial Day.  My dad’s cousin died in Vietnam, cutting short a life of promise on the baseball field with the Houston Astros; The Rib’s great uncle died during the invasion of Normandy, leaving a widow that would become a beloved, influential figure in my father-in-law’s life; a cousin of a good friend of mine growing up died in Iraq and, while I only knew him tangentially, to my knowledge, he is the only service member from my hometown to perish during the conflicts of the past decade.

I also think of the random names and faces of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines that I’ve seen published or flashed across a television screen over the last nine years, leaving widows, parents, children, and service buddies to wonder why and what could have become of lives cut short in the service of country.  I think about all that, yet somehow, my mind keeps going back to a particular active duty veteran of operations in Iraq.

Standing Guard

Over the last year or so while operating the “Garage Bar at CorkEnvy,” I’ve had the opportunity to get to know some great folks in my neighborhood.  Many of them are former or active duty service members.  During any given “impromptu” gathering in our garage/driveway, there are at least two branches of our armed forces represented.  Larger, planned neighborhood events bring active duty or former members of every service branch.

The one guy I’m thinking about most today is an active duty Army Staff Sergeant I’ve had the pleasure and honor to get to know very well over the last year or so.  He completed several tours of duty in Iraq and now works with the Wounded Warrior Project.  His deployments give him a common experience and a perspective that lends him credibility, provides a place from which compassion flows easily, and drives him to consistently go above and beyond while helping his wounded brothers and sisters in arms transition from military service and realize their full potential. I couldn’t think of a better man to help these heroes face their challenges.

Many of the men and women my friend works with are amputees, burn victims, or have other obvious physical ailments.  Many of these Wounded Warriors, however, suffer from injuries that are not necessarily “visible”—mostly traumatic brain injury and/or severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

The greatest thing about this guy, though—at least as far as the work he does?  He doesn’t really think his “above and beyond” efforts are anything special—everything he does to help these men and women is done with a pure heart and a burning desire to take care of those that weren’t as fortunate as he was to get back relatively unscathed from one or more tour(s) of duty in hostile environments.  He does this work with passion because he cares about the mission and the people he helps.  He does it in memory of his fallen buddies.  He does it because he can—unlike so many of the men and women he served with during his deployments.

I think of my buddy and his work today because there is no better way to honor the memory of fallen service members than to take care of the ones that are still with us.  It is through these Warriors (Wounded or otherwise) that the service legacy of our fallen military men and women lives on.

As we start our day today, The Rib and I salute the memory of fallen military members during times of war—particularly those that served in the United States Marine Corps, who provided a legacy of strength, loyalty, honor, and esprit de corps in which we both cherish our small part as former active duty Marine Corps Sergeants.  Fair winds and following seas…

Semper Fi,

Stub (& The Rib)