The Responsibility of the Survivor

Because I'm a guy and I don't talk about girly things like emotions, dresses, and musicals, I've been confused about my feelings on Veteran's and Memorial Days.

On Veteran's Day, I call and thank my Dad for his service during the Vietnam era. I think about my Grandfather during WWII and the Korean War (conflict). I send Facebook messages and emails to my friends still serving. But I don't want people to tell me thanks. I did it because I wanted to. But I appreciate it when they say it. But Memorial Day is different.

Today I decided that although I'm not sure if it's a job or a curse, its definitely a responsibility. As someone who survived, my responsibility is to remember. Remember and read their names. Some guys are adrenaline junkies, but on Memorial Day, I find that I turn into an Emotion Junkie. I need to remember those who can't hear me say thanks. I want to remember the feeling when I heard of their death; the pain that I imagine their family must have felt and still feels. I am truly thankful for their willingness to go, to get on the plane, to wake up when it's 97 degrees and know that its the coolest the day will be, to leave the gate with "weapons red", and to do it again the next day.

To tear at my emotional scabs and make them feel again, I left work today at 10:30 and went to our city's Veteran's Memorial. I was happy to arrive and see that I would be walking through it mostly alone. They (someone) had placed flags all around it and the central flags were at half-staff. I walked around and stopped at each of the monuments for each war and read the names of each of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, or Coast Guardsmen that had died during that war. When I arrived at the last one, the Afghanistan/ Iraq monument, I read them all out loud. On a cloudy, windy day in Oregon, I stood alone at a monument and read aloud the names of the ones from here who can't hear me say thanks. It's all I could do to honor their memories and sacrifice. It was all I could do to see my way back to my truck through my tears. I'm sure it was my allergies.

That's why I fly my flag and read their names. For them. The ones who can't hear me say "Thank You".