I deliberately did not blog about Memorial Day yesterday. I was going to. I was going to write about how when I was a junior in high school, my band took a trip to DC and I saw the Vietnam War Memorial and broke down into tears even though I knew no one who’d been in the war. But the names and the overwhelming sadness of the place hit me then and it hit me hard.
I couldn’t explain why I cried then nor can I explain the tears of my 17 year old self now.
I was going to write about how I took my daughters to the 1st Cavalry Division Operation Iraqi Freedom memorial. About how I showed them the 3rd Brigade patch that their daddy and I wore now and the patch that Daddy wore the last 2 times he deployed. I was going to write about how as I approached the memorial, my heart clenched and the tears came and I didn’t bother to stop them. I simply kept explaining things to my daughters with a new respect for the veterans who came before me and shed their own tears at memorials for their wars. I showed my daughters on a map where Mommy and Daddy were last year. Where Daddy was before my youngest was born and before my oldest could remember.
But I didn’t write about it.
I didn’t write because it hurts too damn much to watch the Twitter feeds about Dennis Hopper and Gary Coleman and sales and white shoes. It hurts because of the scant crowd at the Memorial Day parade or at the ceremony in Harker Heights where two of Fort Hood’s finest laid a wreath at the memorial.
It hurts because we pay lip service to honor our troops but when soldiers talk about child care issues or veterans issues at the VA, we hear people say we volunteered. We hear talk in Congress about cutting back medical payments for family members, failing to realize that yes, we volunteered but if our families are not taken care of, we won’t do so. It’s too hard being in a combat zone wondering if you’re going to come home for medical bills or worse, wonder if your family will even be able to get the medical attention they need.
The support for soldiers has been phenomenal on the surface. On the surface, people say thank you for your service and shake our hands. But what happens when the wars end and we’ve got thousands and thousands of people needing treatment for anxiety and depression and anger. What happens when employers won’t higher former soldiers with combat experience because they won’t take the risk that someone might snap? Where’s the support for the soldiers then?
We talk a good game about support the troops but that’s now. If we’re really going to support our soldiers, regardless of how we feel about the military, about the nation’s foreign policy, or the justifications for going to war, we need to dig in and understand that the war isn’t over when all the troops come home.
For many, it will just be beginning.