May

29

 When I lived in San Diego, one of my neighbors one day had a big sign hanging outside their house—at least 4 ft top to bottom—saying, "Welcome Home Kevin!" festooned with balloons and streamers. It was not an usual sign as San Diego goes. It is, after all, the home of the Pacific fleet, and Kevin I knew was a marine. However, the signs (and houses or, more commonly, apartment houses that went with them) were more frequent on the south side of town, near where "Naval Station San Diego" could be found or much farther north, near Camp Pendleton, there were such signs in the northern part, too. The family had asked that everyone let the Kevin take in returning home before coming by to say hello. What was striking, though, was that when Kevin arrived home and went from the car to the house in a wheel chair, absent both legs, one arm, and one eye.

As I would learn, he also had PTSD among other challenges. That was, however, just the start of his problems emanating from an IED. He encountered what he insisted was discrimination. His wife too. Whether there was or not I can't say. But I can imagine a potential employer wondering about the challenges presented in hiring Kevin. You would think that there might be a little bit more welcome than that in San Diego—and you would be wrong. Kevin's wife had become a member of a support group—organized by the affected families—and I heard much the same from them when they would meet next door.

We are told that Memorial Day is about remembering those who died in service to America living. Mr. Tim has noted that we do so, in part and at least by some, in our celebration of what that sacrifice wrought. Veterans' Day is a celebration of all who served in the armed forces.

 Other countries have their own Memorial Days. In Israel, one of the more poetic ones, at 8 PM on the day, the air raid sirens across the country sound and everyone, even those on the expressways, stop their cars, turn off their motors, and get out of the car for a minute of silence. After that minute, the country resumes its activities. Perhaps that observance grew out of the fact that in the many hot conflicts in which Israel has had over the years, there is barely a family that either has been affected or knows of one affected by a fallen soldier.

But what of those disabled in the course of their service. Those from the Vietnam were basically forgotten more or less. They were, after all, "baby killers," right? But it wasn't only those left disabled from their Vietnam service who have been forgotten—or at least seemingly so. There are those who will argue that at least some politicians are working to improve the lot of these veterans. Kevin's wife responds that they do what they do only when the tv cameras are rolling. She will tell you that the families are told that these politicians will insist that 50% is better than nothing. She responds that 50% is great if you're among the 50% to get a prostethis. Otherwise, you're out of luck.

I don't know what became of Kevin and his family. They sold the house soon afterwards and wouldn't tell anyone where they were moving to. Just "somewhere else, somewhere far away from San Diego." A family of 5. Three young children, the oldest being 6.

So, is Memorial Day truly about just those who died in the military? That's a physical death. Their families will mourn and grieve. They won't forget, but at least some will move on with their lives, perhaps remarry, children adopted, and so on. What about these disabled veterans? Profoundly disabled. Are they not dead too—not physically, but in many cases emotionally. Certainly for many, their futures have died. The promise of a young family has died.

What exactly are we remembering on Memorial Day—graves, or the living who during their service have seen one or more aspects of their lives die. Are they not worthy of our remembrance on this Memorial Day? Or is this just one more time when they are forgotten by their country?


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