May 28, 2010
It is one of these rare days when I temporarily regain my sense of memory and awareness so I was thinking back to family members or friends of the family that had served our country during any era. I can remember Memorial Day as a kid and there was a parade, band music playing (there was a band shell, still active as is the parade) but to me, at the time, it was history as regards what happened. It was not within my mind as a child (and perhaps not in others as well) that there would ever be a war again. I do know that life was easier then and simpler but it is always that way when you are a kid. I still visit that town I grew up in for much of my life and visit my mom who still lives there. It has commercialized somewhat since then but the people still stick together.
Once 9-11 occurred that sense of ease that things would always be well was shattered for everyone and although the feeling of fear comes and goes it is still there. And it shouldn't be. I did have the opportunity to speak at length afterwards to a friend of the family about his experience in the Tenth Mountain Division in World War II. He was able to explain to me what it was like to be on the front lines, what occurred during the war first hand and why some decisions were made. He had come from Italy fleeing anti-Semitic persecution and was able not just to defend our nation but to go back and be one of the people who (fighting with the U.S.) liberate the country where some of his family lived (and witness the impact, many of them had not survived). He spoke of the experience as an accomplishment and the rest of his life had been successful as well.
However, for my stepfather it was not the same. He had served our nation in the Korean War in the Air Force and been wounded under fire and received a Purple Heart. He would show us this medal once in a while and I knew not to touch it and that it was important (as a very small child) but I could grasp the significance of what it was at the time although I did later. However, although he later had a successful career he was not a happy person. He always had great ideas and would sometimes speak of them a lot and get worked up. At other times he would talk to himself. I asked him about that once and he became quite upset but I was trying to explain that I was experiencing somewhat of the same thing (I was diagnosed and started medication soon after). On the night before he died, he told my mother (she only told me this years later) that he heard voices and couldn't cope with them, somewhat like me. The next day he died of a heart attack but I know if he had lived he would have sought help and life would have improved for him. As he was never diagnosed, we don't know what he had exactly and we do believe that it started early in life. However when I did peer counseling for people with disabilities, I did see people who had defended our country and acquired PTSD and did not receive the treatment they needed or the services or honestly even the respect. That should be changed. As well everywhere veterans should receive the honor, respect and dignity they deserve on Memorial Day or any other day for that matter. And although many do, some families who have fallen apart do not take the time to speak to family members who are veterans and ask them about their experience which is often something people can learn from. It was never an easy time for people but sometimes it was the most meaningful time in their lives and one we should all be thankful for...