I awakened last night, in the wee early morning really...too many thoughts in my head buzzing around. Veteran's Day always finds me melancholy, it finds me wherever I roam and sits me down and says "be sad". I try to shake it off, I try to run- here and there, anywhere so that it won't find me.
It always does.
"It" brings a story back to my mind that I don't care to hear. But often, grief is it's own teacher- and if you don't get the lesson, she'll repeat it over and over...until you do. My eldest son, Beau- many of you know the story there. His life trumped his death...do we not all agree on that point? But part of his life, his very proud service in the Marine Corps was discounted by the way he died. I want so much for others to know how proud he was of serving, of rising in the ranks, of finding a self respect earned and often delivered so that others might be encouraged by his story. But on Veteran's Day, he is left somewhat in limbo because he didn't actually die in Iraq, although long he served there. His was an "accidental" tragedy, a bleep on the radar screen of military mishaps. His honorable service did not equate to an honorable death. Please excuse my next expression- Bullshit.
This day finds me gathering little bits and pieces of what little I know to be his story "over there"- I had urged him to run like hell when they asked for volunteers,("Beau, keep your head down, your hand down- you don't always have to be Mr. Macho. If they ask for volunteers, be the second if need be, please don't extend your pride to be the first.") Later I learned from his commanding officer "over there"- when a volunteer was needed, when there were no other takers, he would look to Beau because he knew the other guys would follow him- anywhere. When this story was related to me at the glorious memorial service there in North Carolina- well, let me just say I was proud in spite of my son's direct opposition to my request.
He had a little guitar "over there" that he had shipped to him when he realized that he really needed to play the stuff that made him forget about his surroundings- death and sights that he would not disclose to his mama. He'd wander out into the desert, guitar and little stethoscope in hand and play the hell out of that thing. When fellow brothers had no letters, he'd share his mail or make us all send letters to certain others who had no news from home. If someone did receive mail and it was of the "Dear John" variety- he'd whip out that little guitar and make them laugh in between their tears with some witty worded lyric about the cold hearted women who left them holding a letter of regret. All this I learned later, and was left with feeling more pride for such a remarkable young man that I didn't fully know from "over there".
After work yesterday (I stayed longer than needed...) I made my way to the little cemetery that I hate to go to. But on Veteran's Day...well, I owed it to him. Traveling there always makes me uncomfortable because I cry- like a baby. And when I leave, I always take the back road- fearful of someone seeing my five year old tears. When I came upon the black stone there (Oh God, I hate that stone.) I saw a flag, a new flag placed upon the marker. It waved to me and said things I needed to hear. I looked all around and there were other flags- here and there on stones I had not taken much notice of before. Someone or some group took the time on that cold dreary day to decorate the soldier's graves. To them I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, from my melancholy soul- thank you, thank you, thank you.
The sunshine comes again. It always does. But never can it come from some lonely, desolate place- like an empty room with only one survivor. I am convinced it must be accompanied by others- brought to life by others. "Like a bridge over troubled water"- once again someone built a bridge for me to cross. Blessings and peace to all who build bridges, who raise flags, who remember.