I happen to be one of the lucky ones, one of the few generations of men to have been fortunate enough to be born American and never have to face the horrors of war.
Being born in 1967, Vietnam concluded when I was only 7 years old. I was, of course, required to register for Selective Service, the draft, but for the first time in the 20th century, the young men my age had no war to fight. Service in the military was transformed from a necessity to a career choice, with the added benefits of college tuition thrown in.
I had no reference point this Memorial Day.
The group of men my age avoided one hundred years of conflicts dating back to 1899 and the Spanish-American War, the welcome of the 20th century with World War I (supposedly the war to end all wars), followed closely by World War II, Korea (the forgotten conflict), Vietnam, and to end the century a series of conflicts in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
For one century wave upon wave of American men and women put their lives at stake and I have no idea what that is like. I have no idea what it is to be in a foxhole in pure darkness, unable to see any enemy, trusting to God, luck and whoever happens to be beside me to protect my life.
It is impossible for me to fathom the selflessness it must take to put my life in the hands of a fellow soldier, having his in my own.
Many times, being a writer outside of these pages, I have listened to stories told of such things. I have had the good fortune to have spoken with a gentleman involved in the first wave of D-Day, heard of my own father’s service during the Korean War, and horrific stories of survival relayed by the middle-aged visage of a 19-year old platoon sergeant.
Many times I have been moved by the recollections of lost comrades in a time long gone by, but still the freshest of memories in the minds of those who were there.
Holidays are a great thing and no one celebrates like America, but, this holiday I do believe there are far too many like me out there, ignorant of the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for us all and nothing their lives to truly compare the sacrifice to. There are far too many of us lacking any relatable experience whatsoever.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those whose sacrifice was none other than the very last breath to cross their lips. If it means nothing to you, you don’t have far to look … veterans are all around us, not asking for a thank you but certainly deserving of one.
If you, like me, were blessed with the gift of not having to serve through the sacrifice of so many, maybe it’s time to find some perspective. Most of the time all you have to do is ask.