Memorial Day


michael_joan_wall_2004

Those soldiers, sailors, and Marines who gave their lives for their country would want us to enjoy Memorial Day weekend: they fought for that right along with so many others.  But, Memorial Weekend is not just the “beginning of summer” as it has unfortunately become in the media and advertising.  This is no more clearly indicated than in the oxymoronic greeting, “Happy Memorial Day!” all over the media and even in local communities.  People wishing others a “Happy Memorial Day” do not mean to further wound people who have in fact lost their loved ones in war–but they do.  That greeting indicates unconsciousness about the history of Memorial Day and what it actually commemorates.

My beautiful Michael laid down his life defending his squad in Vietnam, August 28, 1969.  He loved people, who returned his love many fold.  He played the guitar, wrote poetry, and sketched.  He even sent a sketch home–a sailboat he was longing to sail again.  He was a philosophy major who wanted to come home to finish his degree and go on to graduate school, becoming a college teacher. Michael was a Marine, whose letters were filled with love for his family and longing to come home to Houston.  But his letters were also filled with admiration for the beauty of Vietnam and its people.  He had hoped  to be promoted to Sergeant, to be pulled from the front lines after his last mission, and to be trained as an interpreter, working with the Vietnamese people.

Instead, during a major operation near Chu Lai Province, several regiments came under fierce mortar attack.  As the squad leader, he motioned his men to protective positions, then ran across the battlefield to cover his  wounded Marines with his own body and return fire on the enemy as the helicopter came in to rescue them.  Even as he saved many of their lives, he gave his own when a mortar took him even as the last of his comrades was being lifted to safety.  Among his many medals, he was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat V for valor.  But, of course, I would much rather he had come home. His love for me–and losing him–changed my life forever, and I have never stopped loving him.

I maintain a web site for Michael at https://sites.google.com/site/yuponst/home so that what he meant to his family and friends and what the world has lost in this gentle, sweet man will not be forgotten.  Michael was honored at the 2000 Memorial Day Concert in Washington DC; an exhibit in a local library to honor veterans, and in two books featuring letters written from combat sites.  Though we lost him over 40 years ago, and he missed another of his birthdays in May, he is never forgotten, and he is teaching as he wanted to through remembrances of him.

So–please take a few minutes out of the holiday to think of us, bless the memories of those who gave their lives for their country, and say a prayer in their memories.  That is what would really make us happy on this day.

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