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25 May

As my first year at my new job comes to a close, the seniors at the high school where I work are very happy, thrilled to get on with their lives. However, their last day of class falls on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and I’m having trouble getting in the spirit.

I’m not a combat vet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see faces. I sat down to write about them, to honor them in some small fashion. Before I did, I wanted to read what I wrote last year; no one likes reading the same thing twice, and I personally don’t want to write the same thing twice. As I read last year’s musings, (humor me and click here to read what I wrote last year), I realized I couldn’t say it any better. I do have a few things to add, though.

I left out a few people when I wrote the piece last year. Robby Falkenbach was a year ahead of me at the Naval Academy. He died during flight training. Franklin Hooks and Brian Hoke were behind me a few years. Hooks was killed in a plane crash; Hoke died as a CIA civilian after a career as a SEAL. I saw all three every day during at least one of my four years at the Academy.

As I get older, Memorial Day gets harder. Of course, with our ongoing conflicts, there are more people to honor, but that doesn’t touch me personally, although I do pray for them. I think what gets me is that the people I knew or knew of that were killed died younger than I am now. So as I experience more of the joys of life (marriage, two great kids, retired from the Navy), I feel more for them because they didn’t get this same opportunity.

To try and bring some meaning to what I was feeling, I did talk to my cadets about the importance of Memorial Day, and what it really means. I even got permission to read something over the loudspeaker at school, in order to educate the masses. One of my cadets lost a brother in Afghanistan, so I know HE gets it, and some of the others did too, but I sort of felt like maybe I was screaming in the wind to the students in general (and maybe some of the faculty). With such a small percentage of the population serving these days, so many Americans just can’t relate.

So I will do what I always do, which is pray and raise a class and take some space on the internet. But if we all do that, maybe that is something after all.

A reprint of the poem I wrote last year. And yes, the fact that I hate poetry is not lost on me…

A Combat Vet’s reflection of Memorial Day

You think about a long weekend.

I remember long deployments.

You look forward to seeing your buddies at the beach.

I remember watching mine die on one.

You look forward to sleeping in for three days.

I remember three days without sleep.

You think you might drink until you can’t remember what happened.

I drink to forget what happened.

You know your closest friends will never leave you.

I know many of mine are already gone.

You look forward to this weekend.

I wish we had no reason for it.

And neither of us will ever forget it.

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