Monday, May 27, 2013

memorial day.

If you've popped in around here more than once, you'll know how closely tied to military issues I am. While I don't at all consider myself a "military brat," my dad spent more than 20 years serving in the Air Force, his dad and all of his siblings were in the military at one point or another, and two of my brothers followed in their footsteps. Josh and Tyler both enlisted (in the Marines and Navy respectively) in 2005--at the peak of the war our country was immersed in throughout the past decade. I've spent several summers volunteering with the VA hospital, and veterans have always played a big role in my life, in one way or another.

This Memorial Day, I've been in this pensive state... for a lot of reasons, but a lot of it is family-related, and a lot of it goes back to the sacrifices our servicemen and women make every single day. It's sad to think that since the daily updates of casualties have long since faded from news headlines, the chatter about how phenomenal these men and women are and the appearance of the car magnets boasting patriotic messaging have ceased too. We remember and fly the flag--we do little things here and there, but really--do we do what we can to show veterans how thankful we are? How grateful we truly are? I have a background steeped in military history, and I know I want to strive to be better. They need to know, without a shadow of a doubt that the people back here, striding through their day-to-day lives are worth--and thankful for--the grit they endure. Every single day of the year--not just today. Not just on Veteran's Day or Independence Day. Not only on V-J Day.

Go with me here--I'm still developing this thought. 

When 9/11 happened to us all, the following few years we were inundated with a slew of movies and music, chronicling the wartime struggles of civilians and soldiers alike. At the time, I was still a fairly impressionable high school kid and felt icky about Hollywood capitalizing on the heartbreaking effects of war. I know art imitates life as much as life imitates art... but I still feel really torn about the bevy of entertainment that flowed from the most catastrophic series of events our modern country has survived.

This topic is fresh on my mind after flipping through a few movie channels this afternoon and seeing war movie after war movie airing. Don't get me wrong--I appreciate the marathon happening on Memorial Day--but I was reminded how much I am torn over the whole topic. The thing is--we watch movies and we remember. Saving Private Ryan takes us to the banks of Normandy. Forrest Gump puts us in the summer heat of Vietnam. Zero Dark Thirty plops us on the helicopter to raid bin Laden's compound. How much is history and how much is exploitation? Where do you draw the line? (for clarity's sake, Saving Private Ryan and Forrest Gump are among my favorite movies, and films I appreciate for their historical contribution to us all--I'm referring more to the "World Trade Center's," etc... the movies that almost immediately follow a tragedy. There are dozens more HBO-worthy films that feature a storyline about a PTSD-ridden vet, or the aftermath of a lost soldier... while they're current, the plots aren't historical and make me feel their content is questionable.)

I know I'm getting way political here, but that's the beauty of this being my blog. Of all the issues that plague our country and us personally, the rights of veterans and the results of war and the processes of our military are among the most crucially important to me. At some point in life, I would really love to work on behalf of veterans. We shouldn't be merely interested in the safety of our boys (and girls) overseas--when they return home, many of them have a long life of internal battling that lay ahead.

The absolute least we can do is thank them. Any way we can. Make them know how eternally grateful we really are. There are dozens of ways--find one that works for you. Volunteer. Give to an organization like Wounded Warriors. Spend an afternoon at an airport, welcoming home deployed soldiers. Take notice of the people around you--the ones wearing military caps or t-shirts? Walk up to them and shake their hand. I know it feels awkward--but it lasts all of 7 seconds. And I guarantee you, they'll light up inside. And that glow makes your awkwardness pale in comparison. It's the least you can do.

Happy Memorial Day to you... I hope you enjoyed your weekends soaking up the sun and reflecting back on what the day truly means.

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