I don’t recall anything done especially for Memorial Day while growing up in California. I didn’t visit cemeteries, however, so they may have had flags on Veterans’ graves. And I have no doubt something was done at the National Cemeteries, and those in Normandy.
It’s nice, but also a bit sad, driving most smaller towns around here—north Georgia—on Memorial Day. Many streets have either crosses or Stars of David planted in the ground along the street. The name of a fallen soldier, sailor, marine, or airman, is attached to each cemetery-like marker and the war in which he died. So many men died early. Some may have been older, like General Paton. Or a commander in the 101st Airborne Division. I remember a seeing a picture of the General boarding a glider just before headed France on D-Day. He died in that glider before reaching the ground.
My family seemed to survive the wars. My father, an infantry officer, didn’t die when his unit, the famous 101st Airborne Division, was surrounded by Germans in the famous or infamous Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne. My father didn’t die in his glider when it “landed” in Belgium during Operation Market Place. He was wounded three times during WWII. My brother has his steel “pot” helmet, with a large hole in the side, where an artillery shell exploded sending shrapnel through it, knocking it off his head. He was left with only a headache, unharmed. He spent time in a hospital in England recovering from a couple bullet wounds, one to his leg, another to his arm. Then he went back to fight another day or two. I have a newspaper clipping of him and a horse he found after his unit took The Eagle’s Nest, which had been Hitler’s summer command post.
My father saw action during the Korean War, in the Kumsong and Kumwha Valley sectors, as well as the famous battles for Heartbreak Ridge and Punch Bowl.
But he returned home from both those excursions into hell, from the fog of battle. He didn’t talk a lot about his time overseas. His medals spoke of it, and the Screaming Eagle patch he wore on his right shoulder, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Airborne Wings on his chest. Purple Heart. Silver Star-twice. Too many others.
My grandfather survived both WWI and WWII. All my uncles survived WWII.
The Robinson clan had many who survived wars and battles going back to George Robinson, who fought in the Indian Wars of the 1600s.
The Robinson clan had many pastors, too.
Pastors, Preachers, Generals. Their names are in the Robinson Family Tree. For all I know, one of the forefathers from before the American line may have served with that fierce Scott who was portrayed in “Brave Heart.” Or been martyred by the Roman Catholic Church for preaching faith in Jesus Christ apart from the Roman Emperor.
I drive around and see the names on the crosses and I am sad for lives cut off. I am angry, too, for too many disgrace the nation, and those who’ve died to provide the very right of speech they use to condemn those who would stand up against the evils of these terrible times as we await the coming of our LORD. And we must await him with patience. Though we need not be silent. Pastor Franklin Graham recently said that it is out of love that we must point out the sin, the evil, people commit, for they are headed to hell.
Just a few days ago a woman, a basketball player who’d been imprisoned in Russia, stood proudly with her hand on her heart during the National Anthem. She said later she had a new perspective. Being in jail in a foreign country does tend to change the way we think of our country.
I see the crosses and remember a friend, John Speers, who was severely wounded in Viet Nam. He spent a long time in the hospital. His wife stood bravely by him. He survived the war, but it took a great toll on him. His first child, a boy Jan and John named Troy, was born a few years after Miki. They lived next to us in Paso Robles. He stayed in the Army, serving two more tours, getting out around 1978. They settled not far from Paso, in a small ranch town called Shandon. He built a house. Jan and John had another child, Heather. John worked on a ranch. He had trouble with his wounds. Metal pieces with scar tissue. Operations. Pain. He never took his shirt off. He told me once when the surgeons opened him up they simply cut him from bottom to neck on both sides, peeling open. They were a lovely couple and beautiful family. John died in 1986. I never learned from what he died. I surmise it had a lot to do with Viet Nam and the wounds. How many others survived enough to come home and later to die? How many names are missing from memorials to the fallen?
We celebrate Memorial Day with tributes to fallen men–and certainly there are women who lost their lives too. And I mourn those I never knew, who died, and I mourn those who lived short lives then died. And I mourn those who lived long, memory-inflicted lives before their final sleep of death.
I remember the Holocaust Survivors I met in Jerusalem. I saw the tattooed numbers on their arms. Some that I met lived in a small village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The village had a wall around it and an entrance gate. Those inside were mentally ill. They’d survived physically the horrors of Hitler’s campaign, of the devil’s campaign, to destroy the Jewish People. Their minds, however, had not made it through those dark days. I wonder how many men, how many women, survived the battles our country thought necessary to wage, only to have their minds scared for their remaining days, whether short or long.
A story I was told about my father’s homecoming from the Korean War probably is a common one. I was too young to remember the event. And I was too young when Dad left to remember him when he came home. I didn’t know him. My father never told me anything about it. Perhaps my mother did. Or my step-grandmother, Francis. Probably Francis. She would have been there with my grandfather. How many men returned home to their families to find their infant son or daughter already able to walk and even talk, but not remembering him. These things too produce their own scars, to be worn like invisible medals around shriveled necks strangling the bearer.
All is vanity! said the preacher. I suppose he meant, like his father King David had written, that life is short, fleeting, like a vapor that is soon gone. And so this life we live however long it seems, is short compared to eternity. When at last our time here is done, we spend eternity with Jesus, if we know Him, if He acknowledges us. (twr 1215 words)