Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Memorial Day


SPI offers the following post by a member of our staff in observance of Memorial Day — a day set aside to honor those men and women who died in the service of their country, protecting and preserving the freedoms we enjoy.

In 1973 I was a junior at Juniata College in Pennsylvania. The Vietnam draft lottery rolled up and, like all my friends, I went to the local radio station – WHUN – to read the telex, carefully watching the scrolling birthday assignments. I did not win.  My number was pretty low. This meant that in a year or so,  I could be “in country”  — and that did not mean in the United States. 

I waited for the letter that would let me know where I should report for my preliminary physical. Some older acquaintances had gone to war and died, some were back in pieces, or perhaps worse, with post shock — what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder.  Emotionally it was a time of high anxiety — something like waiting and hoping to hear that your high school girlfriend was just late and not pregnant. But worse.

And then, suddenly, it was over.  The draft was gone. Poof.  I was released.

As I finished college, (mostly) finished graduate school, found a career and a life, I put all of this behind me.  Well, not so much.

Today I work with these men who are just a little older than me.  I’ve met dozens who served “in country”  and did extraordinary and horrifying things. Despite the shattering experiences, many still walk among us. Guys named Frank, Mike, Joe and Tom — they are a bit worse for wear, but wry and real. 

They did things we cannot comprehend. War is different now: satellites, unmanned drones, robots and distance weapons quite often take the harsh immediacy provided by our eyeballs out of the equation. Not for them.  They were up close and personal. You don’t want to know.

I have tried to say this to each one of them: I am grateful. I am honored to know you and deeply thank you for your service for us all. Sometimes I tell them that I feel guilty.

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