It’s Memorial Day. Families are going to the beach, cooking out, having parties.
My kids and I are staying home, keeping things low key. Because today, we’re remembering a man. Remembering him the way he wanted to be. And we’re remembering the men and boys and women and girls that he remembered.
I’m not a gold star widow. Let’s be clear about that right up front. I’m the second wife of a man who once was a boy who went to war. I’m the widow of a man that only partly came home from war. A troubled man, who fought the demons in his head for most of his life. He fought until his body and mind wore out, and the darkness engulfed him like peace, and he sighed, and let go of my hand. He felt unworthy of love. And I loved him. For all of it. For all he was. I always will.
Like many soldiers did then, he went to war as a child. He saw no other answer to fix his world. The boy who grew up carrying a radio on his back, running like hell, while ash fell around him. The young man who went to sleep in Cambodia, next to a foreign boy, protecting each other, and woke up the next morning on opposite sides of the conflict, with a knife in his ribs. The young Marine who, months later, hanging out of a helicopter with that radio pack on his back, caught a two year old girl who had been thrown into the air as the copter lifted, and held her in one arm, and road through the storm to safety.
He came home. Built a productive life. He became a lead paramedic so he could save lives~to balance his ledger. He championed for the children. He was their angel, spiriting children and their loving parent away from abusive situations, taking them to safe houses, to start new lives in freedom.
Freedom. It was so important to him. He did come home. But he was never really free. He was a prisoner of his mind.
I think of him on this day, because there are so many he thought of. He told their stories. How they had carried the radio before him. How they had carried the flag. How they had carried each other. How there came to be so many that needed to be carried. How their sacrifice gave him life.
He raised his glass to them, grilled the steaks, set off the fireworks, even though it meant weeks of nightmares to follow. Because remembering them, their stories, their lives and their sacrifice, is important. It is part of our stories.
So today, I sit home quietly, often with tears flowing down my face, my sweet daughters checking to see if I’m alright. Me checking on them.
And we tell the stories.
Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.