I have a long line of military servicemen in my family, but I would like to dedicate this Memorial Day especially to two of them:
To begin, I pay tribute to my Uncle Bill. I was able to attain a copy of his service records thanks to the help of his only surviving sibling, my dear Aunt Mona. I learned so much. He was in the Navy and served in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Along the way, he did many admirable things to serve and teach others while in the service of this great nation that I call home. He received medals of honor and bravery. What his military record could not show was what happened in between the times that paperwork was entered. It did not show his family's sacrifices and struggles when he was away. It did not show record of the cancer he developed that was rumored to have been caused by his exposure to Agent Orange while in the jungles of Vietnam. It did not show his family left behind to keep on going after he was gone.
He died when I was just twelve years old and so I do not remember much about him; I did not realize how precious each memory would become. I remember that I could walk to his house a few blocks over from ours--until he retired and moved away. His chickens used to scare me to death, but I loved making mud pies with my cousin Melinda in that back yard. I loved the smell of Aunt Pat's kitchen, even though I don't know why. I remember the millions of stars he pointed out to us city kids when we went to visit them after they got settled in the new house. And I remember visiting one more time, but never seeing him. The last time I saw Uncle Bill was after he went to a doctor visit. He was in town for it and wanted to stop by. I hardly knew him and it grieved me to see him so eaten up from the cancer. I saw him as a tower of invincibility until that day. My Uncle Bill had been a real life Popeye--over six feet tall with a large Navy anchor tattooed on his huge, muscular forearm (until he got it removed), and always seemed to be in charge. The next time I saw him it was at his funeral and I could not bear to walk over to the casket. One thing I will never forget about that day was the military salute given him at the grave side service. It was an honor to be there. I am proud of my Uncle Bill and I look forward to the day when we can all be together again. (related link: My Hope For Eternity) Uncle Bill, I salute you now and forever.
I realize the purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who have given their life through death in service of our country but I want to honor my brother, Joseph, this day. While he may not have died while in the service of this country, he has sacrificed more than most non-military people do to maintain our freedoms. I mean to pay tribute while he is still here and can know of my love and admiration.
He has spent a good portion of the past 8 years of his life in Iraq or Afghanistan. Although he did not lose his life over there, the price still has been high. After grieving the loss of mother and father in less than two years time, he was sent out and then sent again and again with not much time to recuperate in between. Not enough time to reconnect with the world. I see his service as a great sacrifice and terrible necessity for which he continues to pay a personal price. While he does not talk about what he has seen or done, I believe it has been harder than anyone would want to admit. I am proud to say I have a brother who has served in the United States Army.
Thank you, Joseph, for doing what you've done. You have given so much. Sometimes I think it has been too much. Always and forever, I hope you know that you are more than enough of a brother and friend. I love you. Go! Go! G.I. Joe!
Sidenote: When we were kids, G.I. Joe action figures were the hot ticket item. So, naturally, Joe was nicknamed G.I. Joe and mercilessly teased about it. I think I knocked a few of those kids around for it, too. (And yes, I was that rough and tumble of a little girl.)