Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Remembering Those Who Serve

My war was Vietnam. It became a formative backdrop when I was growing up. It launched me into a lifetime of service and protests.

Even though Memorial Day 2013 is behind us, I still remember those who went to war, fell in action or came home wounded in visible and invisible ways. My high school graduating class was hit hard. 1964. The draft cranked up and took boys almost right out of classrooms. About 40% were drafted. I don't know how many didn't return. I don't want to know, I guess, because I've never looked at the honor rolls on Classmate.com.

My college graduating class was hit hard too. 1968. We still had the draft, although we also had protests rising everywhere. More were educated about options for not going to 'Nam. Some went to Canada. Some kept their student deferments. Some pretended to be gay. And others went because they didn't have options. Again, some returned; others didn't.

I protested. Marched. Stood silently in support of our wounded and dead servicemen. And I wept for my own loss. My best friend, a man I planned to marry, never made it back. He was ROTC in college. Med school on scholarships. Probably didn't have to go, but accepted his call to duty. His mother took his baby in. No, not mine. I went to grad school, waiting and praying for his return.

I was in grad school in Japan when I learned he was missing in action. For months, we had no further word. His mother sickened and could no longer care for his little girl. I wasn't his wife, so I couldn't take the child. We lost her to an adoption. I'm sure she grew up in a happy home. I just wish it had been ours. Nineteen months later, we were told he was dead. His mother collapsed and never recovered. She died within weeks of learning of her son's fate.

I pulled every string I had to get the truth of his death. After all, he was an orthopedic surgeon who didn't go out to the field. Until this one time. He went to a triage center to help stabilize the wounded before they were airlifted out. He caught the last chopper. It was went down with no survivors. The military knew what happened within hours of the incident.

Hours. We learned months later. I finally badgered an officer who told me the truth. His chopper was in Cambodia when we weren't officially in Cambodia. The firefight was there. The wounded were there. My friend died there.

When Memorial Day and Veteran's Day roll around, I think of my friend, his patients, his family, his child. I think of those who served and who still serve.

Thank you one and all for serving. Thank you one and all for preserving our way of life. Thank you all for being my heroes.