Letter: An open letter to our veteransDuring the Memorial Day weekend I had heard someone say “Think of what Memorial Day means to you.”
During the Memorial Day weekend I had heard someone say “Think of what Memorial Day means to you.”
I knew that Veterans Day was Armistice Day and the end of World War I. I learned that Decoration Day was to honor the Civil War deceased and after World War I it was changed to Memorial Day to honor the deceased in all American wars. In thinking about what Memorial Day means to me, I realized that to honor our fallen veterans I needed to think about our deceased, serving and surviving veterans and what they are doing and have done for me.
I started to think about how little I really know about your service and the service of others to and for our country. I am able to say “our country” only because of the service of our veterans like you. This year I completed a piece of leather to honor Jim Krucas’s military service during World War II for his 90th birthday. I have known for years how important his friendships with members of the 1st Infantry are. I really did not start to understand until I learned about some of the World War II battles he was involved in and the military honors he was awarded. But, being in Washington D.C. recently and seeing many of these same battles listed on the World War II Memorial and seeing the 4,048 gold stars at the reflecting pool representing the 405,399 dead and missing in action helped me to understand a little more about his service to our country. Do I understand it all? No, I never can, because I did not have to live it. I only benefit from his and the other veterans’ unselfish service to our country.
I have read the following poem “What is a Life Really Worth.” It goes like this:
“Take a man, then put him alone. Put him 12,000 miles from home.
Empty his heart of all but blood. Make him live in sweat and mud. This is the life I have to live, and why my soul to the devil I give.
“You 'peace boys' rant from your easy chair, but you don't know what it's like 'over there'
“You have a ball without near trying, while over here your boys are dying.
“You burn your draft cards, march at dawn, plant your signs on the White House lawn.
“You all want to ban the bomb: 'There's no real war,' you say, 'in Vietnam.
“Use your drugs, and have your fun, and then refuse to lift a gun.
“There's nothing else for you to do, and I'm supposed to die for you?
“I’ll hate you till the day I die. You made me hear my buddy cry. I saw his leg, a bloody shred. I heard them say, 'This one is dead.'
“It's quite a price he had to pay — not to live another day.
“He had the guts to fight and die. He paid the price, but what'd he buy?
“He bought your life by losing his, but who gives a damn what a soldier gives?
“His wife does and, maybe his sons, but they're about the only ones.”
Let me apologize to the Vietnam era veterans for how some of the citizens of our country treated you during and after the war. Where you should have been treated as honorable soldiers of the United States of America, some of you got spat upon. Now it is 50 years since the start of the war and you are finally getting some of the recognition that you deserve for your service to our country.
While some of you served in a terrible place, you did the job our country asked you to do.
I have been fortunate to visit the National Mall and see the presidential monuments and the war memorials a couple of times over the last few months. The World War II memorial, for me, is the most beautiful of the memorials. The fountains in the center and the War in the Pacific to the left and the War in Africa and Europe to the right, the selected statements and the gold stars at the reflecting pool all provide a peaceful setting for reflection on the gift of the soldiers to our country.
I find the Korean War Memorial to be the most impressive memorial to remember the hardship of the soldiers and the losses that our country and other countries endured. The sculptures of the soldiers on patrol are moving pieces on their own. But, when you continue the walk, you read about the other countries involved in the conflict and see their losses with our losses — this changed my thoughts about the Korean War. Then you continue to walk and you see the images in the wall — these images are so well selected they continue to make the whole memorial a moving statement to our veterans of the Korean War. This memorial should have a scaled version, on traveling display, as we are still sending soldiers to South Korea to serve.
I find the Vietnam Memorial to be the least impressive. While I do like the interactive piece of the memorial and I have done a rubbing of my cousin’s name. I just wish the memorial was a more powerful statement to our country’s veterans service, not just the soldiers that Memorial Day is for.
I have not been able to visit the Tombs of the Unknowns or the Iwo Jima memorials during my visits to Washington D.C., so I have to plan time to visit these memorials.
I am sorry to see our current volunteer soldiers being treated in a similar disgraceful manner as the drafted soldiers from Vietnam. At the same time, I am happy to see the many private organizations offering support to our veterans and veteran’s families. Some of these are the Freedom Flights to Washington D.C., or the various yellow ribbon campaigns or employee networks at our employers.
Our country has lost too many fine men and women in service to our country in the military.
I want to say thank you to the parents of our veterans for raising children who want to serve our country. To those families and spouses that have lost a loved one, please accept my belated condolences on your losses. To our veterans and families of deceased veterans: I am sorry we have to have a Memorial Day and Veterans Day. But, since we do, let me thank you again for your service and all you have given.
What does Memorial Day mean to me? I do not know enough of the hardships that you endured for the freedoms we cherish. I owe a lot to the veterans and the deceased veterans who have served our country. Because, without our veterans unselfish service, I would not have the freedoms that the Constitution and Bill of Rights convey to us, the citizens of the United States.
I am sorry that all I can say is “Thank you.”