Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Call...what's Memorial Day all about???

I'll tell you what it's NOT about.

It's not about packing the kids, the dog, a crapload of toys and food into the SUV, and heading out of town for a picnic, although with gas prices nearing $4.00/gallon, There will be a lot of people heading to Backyardsville for the first "summer" holiday instead of Disney World.

It's not about having a three day weekend.

It's not about griping that the post office isn't open on Monday, that the buses run at odd times, and that you can't get a bottle of booze because the liquor store's closed. (This does not apply to those of you who live outside of Pennsylvania where the state runs the wine and liquor outlets. Lucky you!)

It's not about going to the department stores and being inundated with Memorial Day Sales, and spending the "economic stimulus" check that Dubya sent you.

It's not about rejoicing that summer is on the way, and maybe we can kiss all this rain and cool weather goodbye for a while.

It's not about any of that shit. I'll tell you what it's about.

It's about The Call.

It's about those who for what ever reason, by force of law or force of conviction decided to put off their normal life and answered a call. A call to which increasingly few in this nation in this day and age decide to respond. A call that would require them to take on a cause greater than themselves. A call that would require them to swear allegiance to a piece of cloth with 13 alternating red and white stripes, and fifty white stars on a blue background. A call that would demand that they support and defend the words written on a piece of parchment by a group of statesmen meeting in a sweltering hot courtroom in Philadelphia, PA in July of 1776. Words that defined such then foreign concepts as freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom from self-incrimination and illegal search and seizure; the right to a fair trial.

The cost of answering that call for many would be a high one. One that would demand their lives in battlefields all over this world. The ground of those battlefields is soaked with the blood of those who answered that call. They came from all walks of life. Rich and poor, Black, white, red, yellow. The urban sophisticate, the country bumpkin, the college jock frat boy, the surfer dude, the ski bum, the inner city gang banger, the corn-fed farmboy. From the Big Apple to the City of Angels. From sun-splashed Miami Beach to the frigid snowy mountains of New Hampshire. The Lone Star State to the Black Hills. And all points in between. They were brought together, and made to work together whether they liked it or not. They learned that you didn't have to like the orders, they just had to follow them. They learned that you don't leave your buddy behind, that you watch each other's back, and that you take care of each other.

They didn't answer the call to get rich, hell even these days, those who answer the call are barely making above the poverty line. Maybe they answered the call because it was a hell of a lot better than where they were. Maybe they did so because their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers answered the call. Whatever the reason, the common thread is that they answered it and paid with their lives. From the Revolutionary War in the 1700's to the current War in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been millions of young men and women who have answered the call. Most made it home to a grateful nation. But many did not. I answered the call, and thank God, I made it home little the worse for wear, but there were so many that didn't. And those who answered the call and paid with their lives left grieving families behind, many of whom are still struggling with the loss.

I don't give a damn how you feel about the war. Dissent and protest are part and parcel of America. And those who serve in our country's uniform know that the main reason they are where they are is to make sure that all views are heard and respected. But I do give a damn about how you feel about those who have to fight these wars. They are the cream of this country's finest, and they deserve your respect, admiration, and when they finally get home, your welcome.

There are Memorial Day services all over the town where you may read my words, if there's one near by, go over and pay your respects. There will be vets there. Some will be missing a limb, maybe more, some may not seem "all there." Most will be a little heavier, or have a little more gray, but by and large, made it through. However, for every one of them present and accounted for, there's one who won't be helping to lay the wreath, or pledging allegiance to the flag, or saluting during "taps." But you can represent them, you can thank them. If you're in a restaurant, and you see a young serviceman or woman in uniform out on a dinner date, if you can, pick up the check. Trust me, they don't make all that much, and they will appreciate it. If you can't do that, buy them a beer. If that is even too much, go over and thank them for their service. If there's an American Legion post or a VFW or any other Vet's organization in your area, and they're having an event, check it out. Engage the members. Let them know you care. Listen to their stories if they're willing to talk. Some may, some may not. But at least, let them know you care.

Dammit!!!, It's about the Call!!