My family has a long history of military service. A very long history. If the stories in the family bible are to be believed my family has been serving the United States of America for 150 years - since the Civil War. Granted, at least one of those family members served on the Confederate side, but either way service is service and service to one's country is vital.
Military service ended, however, with my father's generation. My father, his brother and my mother's brother were the last in our family to serve in the military. I chose to serve the United States as a member of the Civil Service instead - National Park Service and US Postal Service. Mostly I chose this because I learned to value peace from my father. That and I saw how horribly our nation treated it's military post Viet Nam first hand. After generations of service from multiple family members, the United States finally came up against a war that it could not get behind and therefore could not support the soldiers who fought it.
It didn't really hit me until I was about 10 or 11. Until then we were constantly moving from state to state, country to country and while my father did his duty, my sister and I either were either one of a kind (Lakeland, FL) or attended DOD schools (Germany). It wasn't until we moved to the Washington, DC area that I understood that not everyone moved every 2-3 years or had fathers with jobs they couldn't talk about. In fact, all I knew about my father's job was his rank (Lt. Col), his post (Pentagon) and that he was almost done. I also knew he had fought in Viet Nam.
I don't remember how old I was when the telethon was held, but I remember the conversation my father and I had very clearly. We were in the car driving home from somewhere - probably religious school as that was the longest drive of the week - listening to the country station my father preferred. That day they were having a telethon to raise money for the Viet Nam Veteran's Memorial. It had finally been approved IF they could raise the money. I also knew that my father had fought in Viet Nam as had his brother. Excited to make the connection, I asked my father if he would be donating $25 to get the name of one of his friends onto the Wall. That is what it took - $25 to engrave a name. There are over 58,000 names on that wall, but at the time I didn't know they needed to raise over $1.4M. I just knew that my father could donate $25 to get the name of one of is friends onto the wall.
I will never forget what happened next. My father is not someone who is known for his even temperament. Usually he is loud, gruff or excitable when he gets angry. It doesn't last long, but it is his usually his first mode. (I admit it - I inherited that quality and am working on it.) This time, though, my father got quiet. He said something to the effect of "I fought for this country, why should I pay for my own memorial?"
You know what - he was absolutely right.
There is one thing I remember well, or used to until the lovely contraption called a cell phone came into being. Phone numbers. I just had to hear them once or twice to commit them to memory (not so much these days as I have my handy dandy phone) so I listened for the number from my seat in the back of the car. When we got home I ran upstairs to my bank, a silver duck, and counted out all the money I had. It was maybe $10. not enough to get a name on the wall, but a start. Once I counted out the money I called the telethon and told them I wanted to donate the money to help put one of my father's friends names on the wall.
A radio must of been on in the house and they must have put me on air because my father heard me. As soon as I hung up he picked up the phone and called them right back, donating the rest of the money needed to get me to $25. Another name went on the wall.
I am a dove - for peace whenever possible. But I am also the daughter of a military family. I know that peace cannot be had without the duty and dedication of the men and women of our military and their families. This year I am a half hour late with my thanks on this blog for Memorial Day, but I remember our military and their families every day of the year - and this is no exception.
For a holiday that began after the first war my family fought in, became popular after the war with the highest number of members of my family fighting, to Viet Nam to today - I thank you for your service. I thank you for my freedoms. I thank your families for their sacrifices.
Happy Belated Memorial Day everyone.