Tag Archives: United States Military

Memorial Day 2009

I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a very dear friend of mine recently in anticipation of our undergraduate college reunion in just a few weeks. (Simply can’t tell you which one…just too shocking even for me to acknowledge!!)

Anyway, my friend Tom and I both grew up on Long Island and, since at that time their weren’t too many folks going to our college from that far away, we became great friends who ultimately would travel home together for weekends.

Tom owned a great little Fiat…you know the kind that made you feel every bump in the road and felt like you were driving inches from the ground…which, of course, you were! So every so many weeks, we’d get together and calculate, based upon exams and activities, which weekends would work out well to travel back home together.

Well, my dear friend Tom, was a practical joker and little Miss Gullible would buy into it every time. One weekend as we’re heading home and already on the road, he informs me that he left his wallet at the dorm and since both of us had so little money as college kids, we were in a bad way trying to figure out what to do about the tolls through the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania and the George Washington Bridge to get from New Jersey to New York.

So here we were…no money and, at least for me, a lot of nerves. When we drove through the Delaware Water Gap’s 25 cent toll I thought, “what’s the most they can do to two college kids for 25 cents?”

But when we came close to GWB, Tom tells me to duck down because he decided to run the toll and since I knew there were those gates that came down in front of each car, all I could imagine was all this wood flying everywhere and some massive group of highway patrolmen chasing us across this huge bridge which crosses over the Hudson River. You know, something out of a movie.

So here we go coming close to the bridge and I remember to this day how nervous I was and thinking if I got a black mark like this on my life, I’d never get a job! Crazy kids.

As instructed, I ducked down low in the seat asking along the way how far we were to the bridge. Tom would update me. Finally, as we get closer he tells me he’s going to run through the gate. I’m freaking out, as visions of wood and windshield glass flying everywhere is racing through my mind.

Seconds later I hear a woman toll taker say…”Thank you,” and this ‘ding’ that proclaims the money has been taken, and I realize my dear friend Tom has tricked me again, only this time over the length of a two hour drive. I thought I would die. All he could do was laugh as I screamed at him. I thought I would kill him. And if I recall I did hit him a few times.

So why am I telling you about this funny story…because my friend Tom, I have just learned, is a proud Veteran of the United States Military. While at college, he was a ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corp)…definition: college students who receive training as military officers for future service in the armed forces.

While a young gal in the sixties (oh, well so much for hiding my age!), I saw my classmates’ older brothers coming home in bodybags from Vietnam. I saw others coming home injured and some had great difficulties coping with life after war. And I was so sensitive to their pain because our country was in such turmoil during that war and I never felt it was right that our citizens punished those who served.

And in my first conversation with Tom in these several decades, I learned he served in Bosnia and Iraq. And I will have the privilege of driving up to our college reunion with him soon to catch up and hopefully he will share much about his life that I have lost out on.

Today in the USA it’s Memorial Day, when we honor and remember those who lost their lives in service to our country and gave the ultimate sacrifice. Let us remember them and their families who miss them.

Let us also salute all the men and woman who now protect and defend us because we can’t, and to their families who have sacrificed much while they are serving and when they come home. I, for one, am an American who is eternally grateful.

These are strong, brave and talented men and woman who put themselves in harms’ way so we might live in this country and enjoy all the liberties we have. The liberty to create businesses as we will, the liberty to speak out against our politicians as we will, the liberty to live where we wish, the liberty to spend our money as we wish, the liberty to vote for those we believe it without having the barrel of a gun pointed at us.

All these very special people give us these liberties that other men from other lands have died to partake in. Let us acknowledge their sacrifice and emotional and physical pain. Let us address all their needs when they arrive back home. Let us honor them today and always, as I do, by walking up to them at the airports and elsewhere and simply saying “Thank you for serving for me.”

Yes, it’s been a long while since September 11th, 2001, but we all know how life changed from that point on. And while we have been blessed not to have experienced another major event on our own soil, our military has kept that at bay.

So I am looking forward to hearing all of Tom’s stories when I see him in a few weeks. And I bless him and the members of all our military branches for their devotion to our country, the United States of America, and its fine people.

To Always Remember Their Sacrifice

Memorial Day, 2008

In America, today we honor the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice by fighting in battles all around this globe, to keep our citizens free. Sometimes we forget that ours is an all volunteer military. We have no draft. We train these brave ones to kill the enemy so you and I can know that our existence in the United States is a safe one.

Yet, it is important to not only remember those killed, but the first-hand and second-hand survivors who are grieving as a result of those deaths.

If you consider any one person’s passing will have upward of 300 people who loved and cherished them, it is a staggering number of people who remember them today.Just think of their family members, friends, neighbors, the military, classmates, teammates, business colleagues, people they knew from church, synagogue, social circles, clubs, etc. And what about their parents’ and siblings’ friends who knew them. They are also affected.

So there is much I want to say here…

First, I’d like to address the grief of the spouse, parents, siblings, grandparents, children, other family members, friends and loved ones of a man or woman killed in the line of duty. Your loved one gave the ultimate sacrifice and every American citizen owes you a sincere thank you for enduring the pain you feel now, for the good of our citizens’ safety.

Secondly, are the needs of military families. Their spouses have been raising children on their own, with little support both financially or personally, and doing a great job at it as well. They struggle to make ends meet and it is beyond me how our Congress cannot make it easier on these active duty families.

They are going into credit card debt, as many citizens, just to survive. But they shouldn’t have to. Banks are foreclosing on homes, ruining credit ratings because credit cards haven’t been paid in a timely fashion. When you expect to be deployed for one tour, which turns into two and three tours, it sort of turns your life upside down.

It’s hard to worry about paying a credit card bill when your main mission today is staying alive and keeping those around you alive, all while in a foreign land. Do the people at these banks get it? Obviously not.

My solution…their debts should become frozen once they are deployed, not to gain a cent of interest or penalty nor become due again until six months after they’re home.

Exactly when will some Congressman or woman step up to the plate and make this right… Senator McCain – how about you?

And if this family experiences the death of their spouse in the line of duty, now they lose their homes, support systems, and more. They must leave the military bases and return to wherever they originally came. In the process they and their children lose their home, friends, classmates, neighbors, other military family’s support. They lose more than just their loved ones. Additionally, they lose income so it is now doubly hard for the surviving spouse to readjust to raising a family alone.

Next…the first hand survivors are also military; those who knew the soldier directly.

Prolonged deployments overseas only delay the grieving process. Wisdom says we must help these brave men and women achieve mental stability all along the way.

Yes, it is only natural that we repair their physical bodies, but we must treat their mental symptoms as well. Seeing multiple deaths during repeated tours overseas is something that stays with you. It is not easily released.

And when someone returns to the home they once knew, they are changed. And they need time to acclimate themselves to their old lives. One thing is certain – they are different now. They have seen too much and are not the same. How could they be?

This weekend I wish us to remember how difficult it must be to trade in a machine gun, grenade, and HumVee, back to a laptop, blackberry and IPOD. I can’t even imagine how that’s done.

And, lastly, second-hand survivors are the family members of these surviving military buddies who will come home, grieving their fellow soldiers’ deaths in combat, and their immediate family members here in the US are scrambling how best to help them through this grief, not to mention their need to acclimate themselves into society back here once again.

So I find it unconscionable that our elected officials do not make it a higher priority to have premier bereavement services available to the surviving families of the military personnel who have been killed and to every active duty soldier overseas and later, upon their return home, to serve them and their families as well.

Military death touches so many lives and we rarely acknowledge all the people affected. Let’s begin to better understand the domino effect of grief caused by war…and let’s effectively deal with it from the onset.